Commentary: Those pesky school board minutes a nuisance for Mingus

These are screen captures of the same portion of the Mingus Union School Board minutes from Aug. 9. The top image shows how those minutes were presented on the Mingus Union website Monday and Tuesday. The bottom image shows how those same minutes had been altered Wednesday morning.

These are screen captures of the same portion of the Mingus Union School Board minutes from Aug. 9. The top image shows how those minutes were presented on the Mingus Union website Monday and Tuesday. The bottom image shows how those same minutes had been altered Wednesday morning.

The case of the ever-changing school board meeting minutes continues at Mingus Union High School.

This first started with the exact wording of a motion made by veteran Mingus Board Member Jim Ledbetter Aug. 9.

As a courtesy to Verde Valley working media, Mingus officials emailed the exact language of Mr. Ledbetter’s motion at 8:22 p.m., Aug. 9.

It stated: “Mr. Ledbetter makes a motion to approve, or in the alternative, ratify the direction given to counsel to initiate and continue the litigation in CV201880188, wherein the M.U.H.S. District #4 challenges SB1254 …”

This board action came in response to an allegation of an Open Meetings Law violation by Mingus included in court filings related to the school district’s lawsuit to halt the November consolidation election.

By Monday, the draft minutes posted to the Mingus website deleted the phrase “or in the alternative, ratify” from Mr. Ledbetter’s motion. And when questioned by The Verde Independent as to why the motion’s language had been altered, Mingus officials refused to provide an explanation. Instead, by Tuesday, the draft minutes on the MUHS website had been altered once again, this time reverting back to the language of Mr. Ledbetter’s motion as originally shared with local media Aug. 9.

It doesn’t stop there.

The original draft minutes from the August 9 meeting, as posted on the school district website, state Mr. Ledbetter’s motion was needed for “Settling question of open meeting impropriety with ratification.”

At least that’s what was posted to the district website Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, those same minutes had deleted any reference to “Settling question of open meeting impropriety with ratification.” They were there Monday. They were there Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, they had vanished.

Again, Mingus is stubbornly tight-lipped as to why and how this occurred.

So, as a point of comparison, here is how school board meeting minutes are publicly presented online at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. To summarize, Cottonwood-Oak Creek posts its draft minutes to its website within three working days of a school board meeting. Those draft minutes, as they appear on the school district website, remain unchanged pending a majority vote of the school board to approve or amend the draft minutes. Following the public vote by the school board, within three working days, the approved minutes are posted to the C-OC website.

“That pretty much sums it up,” said Tricia Winters, executive assistant to Superintendent Steve King.

Further, she shared a copy of Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s written district policy on the public posting of school board meeting minutes. The policy clearly states, “Copies of unapproved written minutes, in print or digital form, shall be distributed to all Board members prior to the next meeting. The Board will take action at a subsequent meeting to amend and/or approve the written minutes.”

In other words, if the draft minutes from a Cottonwood-Oak Creek School Board meeting, as posted on the district website, are going to be changed or amended in any way, it requires a vote of the school board in a public meeting.

The folks at Cottonwood-Oak Creek obviously believe the public’s business is best conducted in public.

As for Mingus, it seems the public’s business is dependent on the political winds of the day.

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