It's the hot topic in Brenham: citizens with complaints about their school board. Monday, as the board began its latest session with a new member and new positions, they could be facing legal problems down the line.
This all got started back in the fall when local resident Jerry Homan says the board president at the time, Richard O'Malley, made some comments after a meeting he thought were inappropriate. So Homan filed a complaint, one he felt he didn't get a proper response back on.
"Open meetings are very important to the public, as well as proper procedures, due process and respect for individuals' rights," Homan told the school board Monday.
When Homan's complaints about the comment and alleged improper closed sessions weren't answered, he took them up the ladder, including to the Texas Education Agency. It's at that point that the school board retained an attorney to the tune of some 15,000 taxpayer dollars.
When Homan was finally told this spring that the board would change its ways and handle things better, a second set of incidents arose involving businessman C.H. Harvey.
"Some of you began your behavior last year with Mr. Homan, and it has carried through with your treatment of me in the last meeting," Harvey said to the board Monday.
Harvey says animosity arose between he and board when he questioned whether they had the proper facts to vote on an issue. He says he was told that he was out of order in the meeting, but that later, some school board members told him he was right and that the board didn't have what it needed to vote.
Animosity escalated in subsequent meetings, and at the April session, Harvey says he was discussing the board's actions, not launching attacks against board members, when a closed session was called for because of what a board member called a personnel matter. Harvey was told to stay to discuss the issue.
By the definition from the Texas Attorney General, an executive session can be called if deliberating employment or hearing a complaint against a public officer or employee. Harvey says school board members aren't paid employees of the district, and thus, don't fall under that umbrella.
As bad, he says, is the fact that a police officer was called into that executive session, something he believes was an intimidation tactic.
An investigation by Washington County's attorney is underway after Harvey asked for one.
"You will force me to file lawsuits against each of you individually on behalf of the taxpayers of the Brenham Independent School District," Harvey told the board. "This will not be necessary should you exercise common sense and not ego."
As it is an on-going legal matter, the new school board president, Vance Hamilton, was limited in what he could say, but did enumerate that they'll take what they heard Monday night under consideration when deciding to move forward.
He also said they have every right to retain legal help if questions are raised about their action, but that going forward, they will work for a resolution outside a courtroom.
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