School board counsel sides with majority over proposed travel limit

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The Columbus Board of Education approved a $25,200 trip to a Massachusetts conference Friday morning without any stipulations, outside legal counsel ruled Monday.

Columbus City Schools Treasurer Stan Bahorek, who maintains the written minutes of the board’s meetings, consulted with Cincinnati-based law firm Dinsmore & Shohl about the unanimous vote, which one board member disputed late Friday, district spokesman Scott Wortman told The Dispatch.

The firm, which has offices in Columbus, reviewed a video recording of the four-minute special meeting and confirmed Bahorek’s interpretation of the vote, Wortman said.

Initially, board member Eric Brown said at Friday’s meeting that he would approve the resolution only if board members agreed to no further travel this year. That included an already approved trip to a National School Boards Association conference in Miami in September, which will cost about $10,000.

Brown was the sole board member to vote against that trip in June, in part because two of four attendees, Board President Gary Baker and board member Shawna Gibbs, will leave the board on Dec. 31.

During Friday’s meeting, Baker asked Brown if he was moving the item and possibly proposing an amendment for it. Brown said “yes.” Baker said the item was moved by Brown and seconded by board member James Ragland. Baker asked board members if they had any further discussion or amendments to propose. A unanimous vote followed.

But Brown’s proposal would have first required an official amendment of the resolution the board voted on — which Board President Gary Baker said didn’t happen. So Brown essentially joined the other members of the board in approving the legislation as written, Baker said.

Brown later told The Dispatch that he disagreed with Baker’s statement and that Friday’s vote canceled all further travel.

The meeting’s minutes are set to be approved by board members at their next regular meeting on Aug. 6 unless a special meeting is called.

Brown did not return a Monday afternoon phone message seeking comment.

The event the board voted on Friday, the Accelerated Board Capacity Summer Institute at Harvard University’s Business School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will take place July 28-31. The board will spend up to $3,600 for each member to travel to and attend the conference in Cambridge, located across the Charles River from Boston.

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