OLE AND DONNA AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS
The March 6 regular meeting of the Matanuska-Susitna School Board devolved into a shouting match after the school board president and a board member got into a disagreement about whether a board member can be forced to serve on a board committee. They also disagreed about whether the complaint by the school board president about another member should be made in public or in executive session.
The meeting started out ordinarily, with Board President Donna Dearman asking board member Ole Larson to read the goals of the school district aloud. Which he did. The board then stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The clerk was then asked to read the rules for public comment, which included a stipulation that complaints about individual employees should be avoided in the public setting, and that disruptive persistence by an individual or group “shall be grounds for the chair to terminate the privilege of addressing the meeting. The board may remove disruptive individuals, and have the room cleared if necessary.”
About 45 minutes into the meeting, after going over a report by the superintendent on implications of state budget cuts, the disruptions began.
Board President Dearman needed to get something off her chest. She referenced a conversation she had had with board member Ole Larson prior to the November board meeting, in which Larson had asked to be excused from board committee work and said she had excused him.
“That conversation never took place,” Dearman said to the room. “There was no ask and there was no granting of excusing from committee work.
“I want the board to know that on Nov. 7, when we chose board committees, had I granted such an allowance to any board member, I would have stated at the beginning of that selection process that a board member had asked to be excused,” she explained. It is board policy that members serve on committees, and she said she would have been transparent about it if she had excused him.
Larson sat listening, as she described her version of events, including details about a heated conversation the two had had prior to the November meeting.
At this point in the meeting, Larson leaned into his microphone and interrupted her with “Point of order,” and the two of them began talking over each other loudly.
“Mr. Larson! Mr. Larson! Mr. Larson! Mr. Larson!” Dearman pounded the gavel three times as she yelled. “I have the microphone! Mr. Larson you impugned me in open session and I am clarifying the record in open session.” He continued to argue.
At this point Dearman had reached over to cut Larson’s microphone, and it’s not clear what he was saying, but it appeared to be about moving the dispute into an executive session.
The two were talking simultaneously and the meeting was overheating. Dearman finally called for an at-ease.
When they returned, the arguing and yelling continued, and the clerk tried to explain Roberts Rules of Order as they pertained to someone calling for a “point of order.” There is no debate or vote on a point of order, she said “we are to hear the point of order and the chair has the determination to accept and reject.”
Dearman decided to decline to hear his point of order, and said she would finish her statement.
But Larson persisted and even though his microphone was no longer working, he spoke for a minute about wanting to take the matter into executive session and he objected to her calling him a liar.
Dearman responded that since he opened it up in open session, she was “going to finish it in open session.”
“This could have been resolved in executive session. To bring it up in public is bad, bad form,” Larson said before being subjected to the remainder of her remarks.
(The drama continued and can be watched on the district’s livestream, starting at about the 42.45 minute mark. It’s good, clean family entertainment.)