The Daily Advertiser reported Monday that scheduled conference calls between Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members, the Department of Education and Superintendent John White to discuss key agenda items before public BESE meetings appear to violate the state’s open meetings law. In an effort to avoid a quorum, at least two conference calls were scheduled to address single matters before the board:
At least twice recently — before the vote on scholarship schools’ accountability Tuesday and earlier this year when BESE voted on the Minimum Foundation Program — board members were invited to participate in one of two scheduled conference calls before public meetings dealing with these controversial issues. ...

BESE members Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe say they refused to participate in the board’s last calls, scheduled the Sunday before the board’s vote to approve accountability criteria for nonpublic schools participating in the state’s scholarship program. ...

“That’s probably why they have two separate calls,” Hill said. “If that’s what’s happening and that’s the case, then we’re deceiving the public.” ...

“Walking quorums in which members of the body come and go ... so as to prevent a gathering of a quorum of the body are not allowed and violate the prohibitions of using any method to circumvent the intent of Louisiana’s open meetings law,” according to an explanation of the open meetings law posted on Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s website. ...

BESE member Connie Bradford, who referred to the conference calls as "meetings," according to the paper, said the discussions were for informational purposes only — to help board members make more informed decisions. Bradford, however, acknowedged there could be legal issues with the calls.

At last Tuesday’s official BESE meeting, the board’s legal counsel said there are no legal problem with the calls, according to the Advertiser story. Read more here.

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