Training a Board in the Way It Should Go

A Message From The Publisher

By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.

      Board member Sarah Leonardo recently asked that the Board engage in training on Robert’s Rules of Order. That would really be beneficial to the Board, but it is also important that the Interim Board Attorney, Marilyn Batista, is sitting on the front row with a college ruled note pad. Not only is she not well versed on Robert’s Rules, but she comes off as not well versed on the Sunshine Law and how to advise the Board as it relates to both.

I stand corrected. The jury is out on whether she is oblivious or she is so entrenched in the culture of corruption at the Broward School Board that she cannot help herself. When the former District 5 Board member, Daniel
Foganholi, moved to terminate Superintendent Vickie Cartwright’s contract a couple weeks ago, she said from the dais that this action was not a violation of the Sunshine Law. A day later, without obvious review of the Sunshine Law or with some sort of influence to alter her statement, Batista said the Board should proceed with “an abundance of caution” because the law is unclear or vague on the issue. Then a few days later, she submitted a detailed letter switching out again and writing that the Sunshine Law was not violated. It leaves to wonder if she lacks competence, or she is fruit from the poisonous tree of the corrupt culture in Broward. Batista seems to ceremoniously march to the beat of a broken drum.

Batista and former Board Chair, Torey Alston, sparred on Robert Rules and Batista was wrong every time. In one Board meeting, Alston wanted to introduce a substitute motion in place of the main motion. Batista seemed confused on her advisement and said the main motion had to be voted on or tabled before addressing the substitute motion. Yet Robert’s Rule supports Alston in that “a substitute motion changes how a main motion is handled, and it is voted on before the main motion.” This embarrassing moment should have served as a warning to Batista that Alston was no fool, yet she continued with controlled tantrums that exposed gaps in her knowledge of the law and governing of the Board proceedings.

Additionally, Alston periodically referred to Batista as Madam Parliamentarian, and she corrected him in his reference to her as parliamentarian. Yet, the role of parliamentarian as defined by Robert’s Rules is “an expert in rules of order and the proper procedures for the conduct of meetings of deliberative assemblies”. A Parliamentarian assists organizations in the drafting and interpretation of bylaws and rules of order, and the planning and conduct of meetings. So, based on this definition, the Board Attorney acts as a Parliamentarian, though Batista didn’t know that..

What is clear is that she needs to spend some time understanding and learning the specifications and responsibilities of her role as Interim Board Attorney. It may bode well for the Board to take heed and listen. It may need to go in another direction for this position. There is still time.

As the Board has changed with Lori Alhadeff serving as chair and the FTX embarrassment  with Debra Hixon  serving as vice-chair, it has become painfully obvious that Board meetings will be doing an about face to the Barnum and Bailey three ring circus spectacle it used to be. In previous meetings and workshops, they seem to be preoccupied; ladies are often reading text messages with advisements and questions to ask sent by onlookers. It will be interesting to witness them juggle these directions while simultaneously governing the Board.

The astute past Board Chair, Torey Alston, who executed the meetings with a strong command of Robert’s Rules, sat stone faced as if in a  Spades card game, while holding the Big Joker, Lil’ Joker, deuce of diamonds, all four aces and an array of spades in his hand. Despite no longer being the Board Chair and losing four Board Brothers, Alston seems to be ready to run a Boston with no problem. With only two meetings being led by the preoccupied ladies in charge, we are already seeing a plethora of broken protocols and Robert Rules blunders.

Interestingly, there were 53 public comments emailed for the November 22 Board meeting. Members of the public were overwhelmingly asking for Alston to remain Board chair. Because the order of business was to select a chair and vice chair, Super Cartwright presided over the meeting. She took a card from the hand of former Board member, Laurie Rich Levinson. If you recall, Levinson knew that many people would show up to protest the organizational chart of Super Cartwright. In response, Levinson strategically changed the rules for public speakers on the morning of the meeting. She limited speakers to 30 and cut the speaking time from three minutes to one minute. Further, those who supported Cartwright’s organization chart somehow knew to show up early and sign up to speak.

Cartwright similarly used her power as temporary presiding officer to suppress the voice and will of the public by eliminating the reading of public comment and hearing public speakers. Public speakers and written comments were heard and read before taking any Board action consistently at every meeting for months.

Instead, Cartwright strategically opened with the election of the Board chair and Vice-Chair. Giving the ousted Super credit, Cartwright understood that it would be difficult for Alhadeff to assume the chair position if 53 public comments in support of Alston were allowed to be read.

The Super was also prepared with flowers for the new Chair and a thank you plaque for Former Chair Alston. She knew the results because she orchestrated them. But from what we all witnessed as Alhadeff took the gavel for the first time, a more useful gift might have been a manual on Robert’s Rules of Order and a review of Sunshine Laws.

Dr. Allan Zeman, the new at-large, countywide Board member, is generating a lot of conversation for waving off the Chief of Communications, John Sullivan, during the swearing in ceremony. While taking the oath of office, Sullivan noticed that Zeman did not have the Bible and quickly approached him to give him one. In response, Zeman halted Sullivan and Sullivan quickly retreated. Zeman took the oath and ended it with “so help me God”. Now, there are those who wanna know what the opposition to using the Bible was about. Noted, elected officials do not have to use the Holy Bible. They can elect to use the Koran, if Muslim or the Tanakh if Jewish. They can also use a book on African folklore, Ten Years a Slave or nothing at all. Still the public wants to know why and are questioning Zeman’s temperament.

Zeman seemingly is also irritating  the veteran community. In his address after the swearing in, he referred to them as “fellow veterans” and it is also rumored that Zeman has told others that he was an Admiral in the US Navy and served at some point with Governor Ron Desantis. The truth is while Zeman has worked as a civilian for the Navy, he was never enlisted. There is a marked difference between being enlisted and working as an employee for a branch of the armed service. A number of veterans are stating they feel disrespected and that Zeman should make a formal, public apology and correction.

These things         – be  as they may – our children’s fate lies in their hands.

About Carma Henry 21268 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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