Meeting in a special called session of the Webster County School Board on Friday, board members reportedly voted to appoint Aaron Harrell as the next Superintendent of Schools, but the process by which they made that appointment may force the board to cast their votes again.
“Because the board did not notify the public that they intended to hold a vote, it appears that they have violated Kentucky’s open records law,” said Mike Abate, general consul for the Kentucky Press Association.
Under KRS 61.823, any when any governmental body calls a special session, they are required to follow a number of specific steps that are outlined by Kentucky Law. Those include giving the public and the media 24 hours notice of the meeting that includes a detailed agenda of the meeting, and limiting the discussion and action at that session to the items listed on the agenda.
The agenda for Friday’s meeting included a closed session for board members to discuss the candidates who had applied for the position, but did not include anything about holding a vote or making a decision about filling that position. The agenda called for adjournment following the closed session.
Board members told the J-E that when they came out of closed session, rather than making a motion to adjourn, motion was made to hire Harrell for the job. The board announced that decision via Facebook on Monday.
“The board should have made it clear that they intended to take action so that the public could come,” said Abate. “When they call a special session, they are supposed to notify the public of everything that is going to happen at that meeting in case they want to attend.”
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Board Attorney Roy Massey IV said that he was not present for Friday’s meeting because it was scheduled to be a closed session that he could not legally participate in.
He added that he will recommend that the board take a second vote at next Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting to certify the results of Friday’s vote. That should satisfy any question about the legality of the vote.
Harrell is a long time employee of the Webster County School System. During 17 years with the district he has served as a high school English teacher, principal of Webster County High School, and most recently pulled triple duty serving as Assistant Superintendent, Personnel Director, and Director of Secondary Education. Harrell is also a retired United States Marine.
He is scheduled to fill the position beginning July 1.