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

Drafted in 2010, the bill would allow the board to take a majority vote to unseat any of its members “for proper cause.”

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.
MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach

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.

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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. 

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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.