Precinct 333

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Uh, Whose Meeting Is It?

Sometimes elected officials fail to understand that they are SUBORDINATE to the voters and taxpayers they serve. Such is clearly the case in Levels, West Virginia. The school board and its attorney there have muzzled parents who wish to address the board about their concerns regarding the district superintendent and another administrator.

Former House of Delegates Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta may be the most talked-about man in Hampshire County — but not at meetings of the school board that employs him.

Board attorney Norwood Bentley successfully muzzled people demanding that Mezzatesta be fired from his $60,000 administrative job earlier this week, and Bentley said he's likely to do it again.

Speaking is a privilege offered by the board, not a public right, Bentley argues.
"You can't take an employee of a school board to task in an open session," Bentley told the Associated Press after stopping a handful of residents from identifying Mezzatesta or Superintendent David Friend by name or job title.

"It's not the public's meeting," he said. "It's the school board's meeting."

More than 100 people packed into a school cafeteria on March 7 when resident Robert Lee began calling for Mezzatesta's and Friend's dismissal. Lee and others had signed a list to speak, identifying their topics as required by board rules.

Uh, whose meeting is it? It is the people’s meeting. Since you have forgotten that, here’s hoping that the people remember this and vote out every member of the board and elect new members who will replace Mr. Bentley with an attorney who is competent in the area of First Amendment law.


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