Here’s what happened during the meeting last Thursday night. After Human Resources Director Donald Dunnigan’s presentation of the personnel report, board member Kathleen Angelucci asked that two names be “extracted” from the report so the board could vote on them separately. This request clearly confused the board members and even board attorney Clem Doyle.
The board’s usual procedure is to vote on the personnel report — which lists the hiring, firing, reassignment, resignation and retirement of all district employees — as a whole.
When board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett called for a vote on the personnel report, Angelucci asked: “Is this the personnel report in its entirety?”
Superintendent Fred Sanderson answered that it was.
Then, without providing any detail, Angelucci made a motion to “separate these items from the other personnel report.”
To which Bartlett replied: “Which items?”
That’s when Doyle interrupted the meeting to whisper with Angelucci for about 30 seconds.
“Madam Chair, let’s do it this way,” Doyle said after his conversation with Angelucci. “I believe there were two items that Ms. Angelucci discussed in executive session, and so I think her motion could properly be the two items that she wanted to have handled separately. She’s making a motion to have those dealt with in a different vote.”
Angelucci made the motion to separate the two mystery hires and the board unanimously agreed.
Then, after voting 7-0 again to accept the overall personnel report, the board moved on to the mystery hires. Doyle instructed Angelucci to make the motion again, and at that point even Bartlett, the chair, admitted she was “confused.”
When David Banks and Lynnda Eagle asked if the board planned to identify the two mystery hires, both Bartlett and Sanderson said no.
“As noted,” Sanderson said.
“Oh, as noted? Without names?” Eagle asked.
“As she just discussed, without names,” Bartlett said. “OK, those that are in favor of splitting it as noted in our executive session, please raise their hands.”
Thus, in a blind vote the board approved the mystery hires, 6-1, with Angelucci opposed.
After the meeting, Bartlett refused to say which names had been extracted from the personnel report. Angelucci did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment for this story, nor did Doyle, the board’s lawyer.
The next day, district spokesman Jay Dillon disclosed to the Journal that the two names voted on separately were Joshua Morreale, an assistant principal at South Cobb High School, who was elevated to principal at Osborne High School, and Dr. Susan Galante, who was hired as principal at Durham Middle School.
Galante retired last June after 28 years with the district. At the time, she was the assistant superintendent over Area 6 schools in west Cobb, which includes Hillgrove, Harrison and McEachern high schools. She had previously been principal at Sprayberry High School. According to the personnel report, Galante spent the last year at St. Tammany Parish Schools in Covington, La.
Morreale, a former principal at Brumby Elementary School, resigned from the district in November 2008 after disclosing to his area assistant superintendent that he had an extramarital affair with the literacy coach at that school, according to records released from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Morreale’s certification was suspended by the PSC from November 2008 to April 2009. He was rehired by the district in July 2009.
David Hudson, general counsel to the Georgia Press Association, questioned the legality of board’s blind vote.
“The minutes of the board meeting will not now reflect who was promoted and who was not,” Hudson said. “For a valid action to be taken, there must be sufficient disclosure that the minutes reflect the action taken. Accordingly, I think the vote without the names being specified was not binding.”
In a May 2011 Georgia Press Bulletin article on the same point, Hudson is quoted as saying: “City and county governments can only take binding official action by disclosing a matter, voting on it, and entering the matter and outcome of the vote in the minutes of the meeting … the law does not permit ‘blind voting’ and doing so should be considered by a court, if the vote is challenged, as a nullity.”
Doyle did not return repeated phone calls or emails inquiring about the blind vote.
This isn’t the first time the board has blindly voted on a personnel matter.
In May 2009, the board voted 6-1, with then board Chairman Dr. John Abraham dissenting, to extend then District Associate Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz’s contract without ever referring to Pritz by name or disclosing what the vote was about. That vote was also preceded by an executive session discussion.