Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MCC Trustees delay action on president

The McHenry County College Board of Trustees met at 6:00PM and one of the first orders of business, high on the Agenda as Item 4 (Acceptance of Agenda) was to discuss (ever so briefly) Item 8 and decide, by vote, to re-schedule it to the April 25 Regular Meeting.

Item 8 was "Contract Extension for the President". This item, plus its publication late on Friday last in the Agenda for the Special Meeting today, raised the ire of the public, the media and at least one trustee.

Item 5 was added to Sunday morning's revised Agenda as "Open for Recognition of Visitors and Presentations", commonly known by other public bodies as the period for public comments. Why they choose to call it by the given title is anyone's guess. It must be an "institution of higher learning" thing.

Members of the public asked the Board of Trustees to place the subject of the president's contract on the second meeting to be held on April 25. The first meeting on April 25 will be the final meeting of three trustees who are leaving the board (Trustees Adams, Larson and Walters). The second meeting will be the first meeting of the Board with its three new members (Trustees-elect Jenner, Walsh and Wilbeck), who were elected to the Board on April 9.

I arrived early, expecting the Board room to the crowded. What I didn't expect was that it was jam- packed with MCC employees. At about 5:40PM I stepped into the hallway to greet a friend, who was looking for a seat and not finding one. As Dr. Vicky Smith passed, I asked her if she would ask all the employees to step out and allow "the public" to be seated in the Board room.

She responded quickly (and correctly) and asked one of her assistants to direct employees to leave and move to an overflow area that had already been set up. Why did all those employees arrive so early? I'd love for one to contact me and tell me whether there had been any "suggestion" or encouragement to arrive early. I also wonder why none voluntarily left his or her seat to allow a member of the public to be seated.

During the public comment period the Board of Trustees got an earful from area residents and employees, including requests for more transparency and compliance with the intent of the Open Meetings Act.

The Board went into Closed Session, and the public left the room. A number waited through the Closed Session for it to end and re-entered the Board room. I was about the fifth person to enter when the door was opened, and I noticed that some Board members were already away from their seats, taking a break.

Then I realized that the 7:00PM meeting of the Committee of the Whole (what a strange name) was about to begin. I had been waiting for the Board to resume its Special Meeting by voting to return to Open Session. And then to adjourn properly.

When I asked about that, I was told that there had been no business from the Closed Session on which to vote. It is extremely hard for me to imagine that, in the seconds it took me to walk back into the room after the door was opened, the Board could make the motion to re-convene in Open Session and take a rollcall to do so, and then to entertain a motion to adjourn and vote on that.

The MCC Board of Trustees is either careless about the Open Meetings Act or believes that the public is just an intrusion on their meetings. It might have taken only a minute to wait for the public to re-enter the room and be seated. Then the Board could have gone to the correct motions to re-convene and to adjourn.

The Board also seems to care little about whether it can be heard throughout the room. In front of each Trustee is a nice, professional microphone. All were pushed away from the trustees, so that their voices were not amplified to be heard throughout the room.

Cal Skinner was there and got a fair number of flash photographs before MCC Police Ofc. Sosnowski informed him that flash photography was not permitted during meetings. Cal spoke during the public comment period, but I could not hear his remarks from the hallway. See McHenry County Blog for Cal's article and his photos.

Pete Gonigam was there, too, and you can read his story on FEN.

While I was addressing the Board, a man sneaked in behind my back and sat in my chair. I should have asked his name, so I could "thank" him here.

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