By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown school committee has spent the past month trying to find a way to deal with a significant deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.
Now, they’ll also have to find a new member.,
Committee member Joe Thompson formally announced his resignation effective immediately this week, declaring it officially yesterday at a meeting of the NK Republican Town Committee.
Thompson was already planning on resigning at the end of the 2012 school year because he and his wife would be moving to North Carolina to live near their children and grandkids but said that after the “strange events” of the Dec. 13 school committee meeting, he felt it was better not to wait.
“I can longer serve on a body that operates under one set of rules for some of its members and another set for the others, thereby doing a disservice to the taxpayers,” he said in a letter to local residents.
At the school committee meeting in question, Thompson felt committee chairperson Kimberly Page’s interpretation of Robert’s Rules of Order was questionable.
The debate centered on an item on the agenda that called for a vote to reconsider a $6.4 million bond for the purpose of funding Capital Improvement projects.
The school committee had already voted against the CIP bond in its November 3 meeting but vice chairperson Richard Welch asked for a motion to reconsider the bond as he and fellow member Larry Ceresi were absent from the November meeting.
School Committee attorney Mary-Ann Carroll wanted to make sure that was legal and, referencing the newly revised Robert’s Rule of Order, said that in a standing committee anyone who didn’t vote with the losing side can make a motion to reconsider and that motion can be done by someone who voted with the prevailing side, who didn’t cast a vote or who was absent from the meeting.
Since Welch was absent, Carroll said, he had the right to make the motion to reconsider. This time the entire committee was present and the motion passed 4-3, with Thompson, Mel Benson and Bill Mudge once again voting against the bond.
Thompson felt the interpretation was not correct and believed that a committee can’t move to re-vote on an item unless a member was present and on the prevailing side the first time.
NK School Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger said Wednesday he has enjoyed working with Thompson and admired his enthusiasm on school issues but disagreed with his interpretation of Robert’s Rules..
“As for the issue on the reconsideration of the bond, we did follow Robert’s Rules and I assure you, no one is pulling a fast one,” Auger said. “Mr. Thompson was just not happy about what those rules said.”
In his letter, Thompson cited this interpretation as well as what he called a violation of the consent agenda as reasons why he sped up his resignation.
“No one was able to exempt anything from the consent agenda,” he said. “Per Rhode Island general laws, members of the committee and public may exempt items to have further discussion. We weren’t allowed and it’s because certain people don’t want us to talk about certain things.”
Auger responded that it’s often preferable to deal with the consent agenda as a whole because the regular agenda is too long as it is.
“Half the time we’re stuck on the consent agenda for the entire evening and we don’t get business done,” Auger said. “If the majority of the committee wants to vote for the consent agenda as a whole, then that’s what happens. In no way are we trying to hinder conversation on those items.”
In a written statement Tuesday afternoon, School Committee Chairperson Kim Page stated that Thompson threw himself into his elected position with “enthusiasm and creativity” and although he didn’t agree with her opinion on how to best serve the community, he was there for the right reason.
According to the North Kingstown Town Charter, Article IX, Section 903, in the event that there is a vacancy on the school committee, that vacancy will be filled by the town council by appointing the school committee candidate who received the highest number of votes among the unsuccessful candidates. If that candidate declines appointment, no longer meets the qualifications for school committee or is otherwise not available, the council will appoint another “qualified elector of the town to fill the vacancy within 30 days.”
Based on the results of the 2010 election, the vacant spot would be available for John Boscardin (R), who came in just behind Mudge with 4,590 votes.