Cumberland Times-News

July 15, 2013

Ex-officio

Valentine should sit in on school board sessions


Cumberland Times-News

— We believe the Allegany County commissioners would prevail if they force the issue of whether Commissioner Bill Valentine, by virtue of his ex-officio membership on the board of education, should be permitted to sit in on the school board’s closed meetings.

But rather than become embroiled in a lawsuit over the matter, we encourage the county and school board to seek a Maryland attorney general’s opinion to settle the dispute. Then, whichever way the attorney general finds, the two sides should abide by the ruling.

For years the county commissioners have named one of their three members to serve as an ex-officio — that is, non-voting — member of the board of education.

Presumably the rationale for creating an ex-officio county member is to keep the lines of communication open between the county commissioners and the school board.

Unfortunately, the county commissioners and school board are in an adversarial relationship these days, primarily because of disagreements about the level of county funding of education and how school security should be handled.

But county commissioner and school board membership usually changes from election to election. The ex-officio provision should remain in place, whether the two sides are cooperating or not. County taxpayers are better served by having a commissioner serve as an ex-officio member since a lion’s share of county tax money is spent on education.

At last Thursday’s county commissioner meeting, Valentine offered a motion — which then was passed unanimously — to authorize County Attorney William Rudd to write to the school board’s members informing them of the county’s intentions of filing a lawsuit if Valentine continues to be excluded from closed sessions of the school board.

The best scenario in this matter would be for the school board to relent and allow Valentine into the executive sessions. If that does not happen, then we urge the two sides to seek the attorney general’s involvement so that the issue can be settled without spending tax dollars in a court battle.