JUST MY OPINION from Tamara Pettit

……The decision of the Hancock County Board of Education to appeal the Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling requiring the re-bid of the Director of Personnel position has set off a firestorm of public opinion.  The 28-page Judge’s ruling has been widely circulated and I am among those who after reading it came to the conclusion that the Director of Personnel position must be vacated and re-bid.  The ruling, which found Superintendent Dawn Petrovich showed favoritism when she selected her close friend Sarah Parsons for the position raises several  troublesome issues:  First, interviews for the Director of Personnel were not conducted in a manner consistent with those for other positions.   I am told that typically 5 to 8 people are normally included in the interview committee.  In this case only two people, Superintendent Dawn Petrovich and Finance Director Joe Campanelli,  interviewed the candidates.  Second, the matrix was not followed.  Petrovich did not take notes.   Candidates were not ranked in order ie. there was no #2 , 3 or 4 ranked in the selection process.   The latter issue  alone is significant because if the position was vacated or declined there would be no question as to was next in line for the position.   Third, annual evaluations had not been completed on those candidates as principals as is required  by law(although I’m wondering if the COVID pandemic is a factor in that.) 

……After reading the decision I came to my own  conclusion that the Superintendent showed favoritism; that Parsons ‘ misrepresentation of her credentials on her application makes  her unfit for the personnel position and  could possibly be grounds for her dismissal altogether; and that Petrovich’s  failure to follow correct procedure in the process raises very real questions concerning her  judgement and ability to function as a superintendent.

……But this isn’t a jury trial so I don’t have a vote.   I am mystified by the Board’s decision on a 4-1 vote to appeal the decision.  I have to assume information or discussion with its attorney during the lengthy executive session Monday night is what caused the Board to make what they knew would be an unpopular decision.

….The Board  needs  to reveal  the reasoning behind its decision to appeal.  Is that  confidential?  No, only if the Board chooses to make it so.  The Board   can reveal what was discussed in Executive Session.  A March 3, 2022 decision by the WV Ethics Commission affirms that while the information discussed in an executive session can remain confidential, it is up to the governing body as to whether it remains confidential or not.

     Advisory Opinion No. 2022-1 responded to a question by the Harrison County Commission as to the confidentiality of information in an executive session.   The decision said The Committee on Open Governmental Meetings holds that the Open Meetings Act does not make information discussed during executive sessions confidential because executive sessions are discretionary and the Act does not state that executive session communications are confidential.    Other rules and laws may  create a duty of confidentiality such as any information regarding a student expulsion.  There may be some other issue of confidentiality here, and if there is, the public can be made aware of its existence.

There is no doubt that  the Board can opt to keep the information confidential, but to do so is a disservice to the public.   If they have a compelling reason to appeal the public  deserves  to know it.     Otherwise, members of the public will draw their  own conclusions and right now it seems that the initial conclusion is that the Board has made the wrong decision.