Proposed censure policy changes fail Shelton school board vote

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON - Proposed Board of Education policy changes - focusing on censuring or removing members from specific offices - is going back to the drawing board.

The Board of Education voted 5-4, with Republican Board Chair Kathy Yolish joining the four Democratic board members in approving the new language. But the four remaining Republicans voted against the policy proposal, meaning it is dead since such changes require a 2/3 majority, or six votes.

“This policy was actually meant to serve as a protection for board members in that it cites specific areas and circumstances for censure,” Yolish told Hearst Connecticut Media.

The policy has now been referred back to the Policy Committee, of which board member Lorraine Rossner is now chair.

“I am hopeful that we will be able to revise the wording of the policy to everyone’s satisfaction and bring it back to the full board for approval,” Yolish added.

Yolish said the revisions to board bylaw No. 9222 - titled Resignation/Removal from Office/Censure - were recommended by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), on which the board is a member, and board attorney Fred Stanek.

The revisions are to the “removal from office” and “censure” sections.

Board member James Orazietti — who joined fellow Republicans Carl Rizzo, Amy Romano and Joseph Pagliaro in opposing the new language — questioned the need for the changes.

“Before I make any decision on a censure policy, it better be right. This is far from right,” Orazietti said. “Is this even necessary now? We’re in the middle of budget season. This is not my focus right now. My focus is on the kids.”

Stanek offered his opinion during Wednesday’s board meeting, saying the present language is “seriously lacking in that it does not set forth sufficient causes for removal from office, nor procedures for censure or reprimand” of a board member. The revision, as written, “addresses the due process inadequacies of the present bylaw.”

Stanek noted that the policy does not allow for removal of a board member, since they are elected by the residents. This policy offers authority for the full board, by a 2/3 vote, to remove members from “officer” positions such as chairman, vice chair, secretary and subcommittee chairmanships.

The removal from office section lists “cause,” which is any conduct that is deemed deleterious to board operations; negatively affects the rights and interests of the public; violates board rules or policies; or interferes with the orderly operation of the board.

For censure, the proposed language says any board member who fails to “act in complete accordance with the provisions and tenor of the policies and bylaws of the board” is open to censure or “other action.”

Rizzo said he opposed that line, which includes “other action,” because it leaves the question of reprimand open-ended.

Prior to any censure vote, the board may review the performance of the board member in question in open or executive session before any action. If the board determines action is necessary, notice is given to the board member.

Board Vice Chair Kate Kutash said CABE sends the board suggested policy updates every year.

“These include wordings for areas that may need to be updated or corrections made based on new laws,” Kutash said. “In one update last spring they included clean-up for this policy that defined censure and gave suggested wordings to use in appendices. It was brought before the policy committee of which I was then acting chair.

“We are justified in cleaning up the language and defining what constitutes censure,” Kutash said.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com