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It’s back: Bill would empower MPS board to unseat any of its members

MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach
Sen. Scott Dibble has revived legislation that would allow the Minneapolis school board to unseat its own members "for proper cause" on a majority vote.

Today Your Humble Blogger offers a slender observation gleaned while trying to get a handle on the already hot and contentious 2015 legislative session.

Minneapolis DFL Sen. Scott Dibble has re-introduced a bill (SF 167), drafted in 2010 and dusted off periodically in the interim that would give the Minneapolis School Board the power to take a majority vote to unseat any of its members “for proper cause.”

Said majority could then just fill the empty seat, presumably with a like-minded individual. Et voila, even more of a majority.

Proper cause is not defined, but the proposed law would require the majority to give notice of the meeting where the ouster would be voted on and give the miscreant a chance to acquit him or herself.

Yes, that’s right. The measure would grant one of the most historically fractious elected bodies in the state the power to tinker with its own composition.

The board members elected in the race where spending eclipsed half a million dollars and vitriol (and falsehoods) lit up ye olde Internets? Maybe it wasn’t the last vote on their tenure.

The board members — and there have been a series over the years — who won’t stay on script when they feel the public is not being heard or served? Is failing to heed Robert’s Rules of Order “proper cause”?

Let’s not even get into the self-evaluation by a differently configured board that this time last year was revealed to have given itself rock-bottom marks for “conduct and ethics” and “demeaning verbal and nonverbal communication.”

Indeed, although the bill is titled “Minneapolis school board membership modifications,” I like to think of this as the Get Rid of Chris Stewart Act. Its first introduction directly followed a dust-up that Stewart, then a board member with little use for going along to get along, got into with the principal of the district’s most sought-after school.

Stewart is black, Principal Tim Cadotte is white, and the argument centered on race. The district was in the midst of redrawing school attendance boundaries and a tug-of-war about diversifying the school, Burroughs, had sparked a community debate that at times was insensitive and inflammatory.

Exactly what transpired is too nuanced for this piece and, because it involved a personnel investigation involving Cadotte — who was suspended and later reinstated  was never publicly explained.

While tempers were running high, seven DFL lawmakers wrote to district brass demanding Cadotte’s reinstatement. There were unwritten hints — a la last fall’s Community Standards Initiative scandal? — that the state integration revenue Minneapolis was in danger of losing could dry all the way up.

Stewart finished out his term and has gone on, most recently, to an advocacy position with the Education Post. 

I can’t find so much as a conspiratorial murmur suggesting board members in recent years have asked for this power — or were even aware it was a live issue.

But the proposal lives on. You almost have to hope it gets a hearing.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Jennifer Norlin-Weaver on 02/03/2015 - 11:15 am.

    ‘now-former Principal Tim Cadotte’ ?

    A Welcome from CURRENT and successful Principal Tim Cadotte, who has not retired can be found on the Burroughs website:

    http://burroughs.mpls.k12.mn.us/Principal_Tim_Cadotte.html

    Personnel investigations are not publicly explained because they ARE investigations, all other implications to the contrary.

  2. Submitted by MARK ABELN on 02/03/2015 - 11:35 am.

    Really Mr Dibble!

    I can’t see how an elected board (MPS) can throw one it’s members out. They are all elected, not appointed. It amounts to some of the members telling the people who voted “we don’t care”. Not a good message in my humble opinion. Someone should mention this to Mr Dibble. I think I will the next time I see him at a DFL fund raiser.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/03/2015 - 06:53 pm.

    An odd electoral process

    If I were a lawyer, this would have me licking my chops, since the prospect of lawsuit(s) (note the plural) seems virtually certain if it’s adopted. What’s considered a “proper cause?” Is there any intermediate step, or does the board member show up for a meeting one night to be confronted by fellow board members apparently intent on his/her removal without any prior official notice or procedure? It’s an odd electoral process, indeed, wherein someone is elected to a public office from which s/he can be removed for an unspecified “proper cause” by people who played no official role in that officeholder’s election aside from, perhaps voting for the officeholder (or her/his opponent).

    That said, I can’t help but point out that this is exactly the sort of thing that could very easily take place among school faculties if teacher tenure, much loathed by Republicans, is dissolved. Qualified teachers could then be fired for the same sort of unspecified “proper cause,” or for no cause at all.

    I wouldn’t argue that a board member should NEVER be removed from office before a term had expired, but such removal – better done by way of special election to begin with – ought to follow due process, first of all, and should also include specific allegations against which the board member in question could defend herself/himself. Being elected to public office is not the same thing as being an “at-will” employee of Corporate Behemoth, Inc. Without due process and an insistence on specific charges or reasons, this sounds legally indefensible, though I’d like to hear from an attorney about that, since I am not one.

    In any case, Mr. Dibble is WAY off base with this proposal.

  4. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 02/03/2015 - 11:46 pm.

    This language is in already in Minnesota law

    Minnesota law regarding all the other school boards in the state already has this provision

    MN law 123B.09 governing Independent School Boards reads, “Subd. 9.Removing board members.
    The board may remove, for proper cause, any member or officer of the board and fill the vacancy; but such removal must be by a concurrent vote of at least four members, at a meeting of whose time, place, and object the charged member has been duly notified, with the reasons for such proposed removal and after an opportunity to be heard in defense against the removal.” This is the same language used in Senator Dibble’s bill.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/04/2015 - 07:20 am.

    “For the children” is all well and good until the kiddies needs conflict with the requirements of the larger agenda.

  6. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/04/2015 - 11:48 am.

    if a comment like this is going to ….

    made in conjunction within a discussion regarding issues of potential law, “Exactly what transpired is too nuanced for this piece and, because it involved a personnel investigation involving Cadotte — who was suspended and later reinstated — was never publicly explained.” I would suggest it be back up with information otherwise it reeks of personal attack an innuendo. Either the writer or the editors need to be doing a better job of keeping apples with apples. Seems like a personal attack. Or maybe even worse.

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