District Legal Counsel Advises on Rothmann
Left, School Board Vice President Angle Faxon with President Terry Rothmann. (City-Times photo)
By Jacob Mathias
Stevens Point School District Superintendent Attila Weninger’s report at Monday’s school board meeting included a legal opinion and discussion on the complaint against School Board President Terry Rothmann.
At a board meeting on February 24, Rothmann imposed rules on the public who wished to speak at the meeting, saying that a speaker’s rude or disrespectful comment would first result in a warning, and if continued would be required to sit down and no longer speak at the meeting.
A formal complaint filed by School Board candidate and Portage County Board Member Sam Levin claims that Rothmann violated open meetings law and the U.S. Constitution. Levin currently has an inquiry on the matter filed with Portage Count District Attorney, Louis Molepske Jr.
More informaion on Levin’s complaint can be found here.
“I have no problem with Mr. Rothmann asking somebody to sit down if they’re being disparaging,” said Levin. “My problem was the additional sanctions of not being able to speak at the rest of the meeting. That’s something that’s not in the policy. That’s something that’s not on the agenda. That’s something the board did not vote on and therefore it should not have been included.”
“In consulting with legal counsel because this is a matter of law, policy, and legal interpretation, I received the following counsel from Shana Lewis (Davis Kuelthau Law Firm),” writes Weninger:
“I agree with Mr. Levin’s statements that the Board President does not have the authority to make policy by himself. In fact, Board Policy 151 states explicitly that ‘Policies and rules shall be adopted or amended only by a majority vote of the board.’ The policy also sets forth a first and second reading process that can only be avoided with a 2/3 vote of the board.
“However, I disagree with Mr. Levin’s suggestion that Mr. Rothmann ‘made policy’ when, in response to several examples at previous meetings when public comment speakers disparaged “board members, employees, students, positions/position titles, and/or district citizens,” Mr. Rothmann stated that he would not allow the speaker to continue if such statements were made.”
“Rothmann was clearly acting within his authority as the Board President/Chair of the Meeting. Furthermore, if the rest of the Board members wished to overrule him, it was their responsibility to pass a motion that would allow the speaker to continue speaking despite the violation of Board Policy 180.”
Board member Lisa Totten said that she did not know that she was able to make a motion against Rothmann as Lewis states because the issue at hand was not on the agenda.
“I’m not sure how a board member would know that unless they were an expert in Robert’s Rules,” said Totten.