MANCHESTER — District officials convened an “alternative school board,” consisting of aldermen and former board members, to weigh a confidential personnel matter on Monday.
Members of the panel met in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall, with three Manchester police officers standing outside the closed-door meeting.
James O’Shaughnessy, the district’s attorney, said the elected members of the school board agreed to recuse themselves from the personnel matter because they were previously involved in the case.
“We needed to find an alternative board. We did it by agreement of the parties,” he said. “It’s inherent in the process to provide due process to employees ... It’s really when the school board is trying to be as fair and impartial as possible. ” O’Shaughnessy said there was “precedent in New Hampshire for this kind of process,” although he said he couldn’t “off the top of my head” provide an example of another district forming such a board.
There were at least four aldermen on the panel: Jim Roy, Pat Long, Tom Katsiantonis and Barbara Shaw. The other three to five people at the meeting could not be identified. Neither O’Shaughnessy nor Matthew Upton, who also represents the district, identified them.
Under the state’s open meeting law, government bodies are only allowed to meet in nonpublic session under special circumstances, including the discussion of personnel matters.
Under the law, the body may only enter nonpublic session “pursuant to a motion properly made and seconded.”
No such motion was made at Monday’s meeting before a New Hampshire Union Leader reporter was asked to leave.
There is no reference to an “alternative” school or aldermanic board in the city’s charter or ordinances.
Following a nearly hour-long meeting, O’Shaughnessy said there never was a quorum and the meeting was disbanded before any action was taken.
“It was a non-meeting meeting,” he said. “It was as if some people got together, had a couple doughnuts and left.”
O’Shaughnessy and others who were at the meeting would not comment on the personnel matter under discussion.
O’Shaughnessy said he and the superintendent determined the make-up of the “alternative board” by “going down a list ... from people formerly on the school board and other public servants, to members of the aldermanic board.”
He said the meeting would have to be rescheduled and that the district would provide more information ahead of the meeting.