By Mike Harpold
May 09, 2007
Invoking a convenience clause does not release the board from accountability. It is true that the board does not have to give Mr. Martin a reason for his dismissal, but those members who voted for his dismissal seem to feel that they are under no obligation to give the community an explanation either, and they must. Ms. Eakes and Ms. Schafer continue to offer generalities and avoid the specifics that would allow the community to decide whether or not the board acted reasonably. What was the huge budget deficit that Mr. Martin failed to correct? What administrators did he fail to properly evaluate? What board policy did he not publicly defend? What information did he withhold? The last charge seems a bit ironic.
If board members Lieben, Jackson, Eakes and Schafer felt the offenses were serious enough to warrant his termination, they should have proposed firing Mr. Martin for cause. They did not. Neither did they place Mr. Martin under a plan of improvement, which would have been a warning that he needed to improve. Under grilling by board member Thomas they admitted Mr. Martin had met all of his goals. There was no advantage to the district to fire Mr. Martin "for convenience", and certainly no necessity to do so. It appears that board members weren't prepared to justify their action and believed simply that by invoking the "convenience" clause they wouldn't have to.
It is wrong to fire an employee without process, particularly one who has served this community well for six and a half years. In good governance, process is not just something, it is everything. Had process been invoked, not only would Mr. Martin have had the opportunity to defend himself, but through the process the community would have been provided enough information to judge whether the board was acting correctly or not.
The failure of an elected body to adhere to fair and open processes destroys the public's confidence in that body.
About: "Mike Harpold served seven years on the school board and three years on the city council."
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