December 01, 2010 - We believe the Mehlville Board of Education acted hastily with its recent decision not to fill a board seat vacated by Karl Frank Jr.
Frank, who was elected to the board in 2005, decided to step down to devote more time to his family and his computer consulting business.
In voting 6-0 to leave Frank's seat vacant until the April 5 election when his term expires, the board suspended its own policy that designates a procedure and a time frame for filling a vacancy. That's certainly the board's prerogative as it can ignore, suspend or change its own policy.
The board's policy states if a vacancy occurs, the remaining board members "shall appoint a person to serve until the next school board election."
The board would solicit letters for two weeks from residents interested in filling the seat. Separate open meetings then would take place for the board to review the letters, conduct interviews with candidates and vote on an appointment.
In making the motion Nov. 18 to leave Frank's seat vacant, Secretary Larry Felton contended it likely would take until January to select a new board member, who then would serve for only three meetings until the April election.
But citing state law, Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, a former Board of Education member, has requested an opinion from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on whether the board must fill the vacant seat.
In his letter, Bivins writes, "It has been brought to my attention that the Mehlville School District Board of Education may be in violation" of Missouri statute 162.261.
That law states a school board vacancy "shall be filled by the remaining members of the board."
Felton has said attorneys with the Missouri School Boards' Association advised him the board could leave the seat vacant until the election because the state law, unlike Mehlville's policy, does not mandate a time frame for the board to fill it.
Regardless of the opinion formulated by Koster — if one is even rendered in a timely fashion — we believe the board should fill the vacant seat because the bigger issue here is representation for the community.
An astute Call reader cited additional language contained in statute 162.261 that states, "... (I)f there are more than two vacancies at any one time, the county commission upon receiving written notice of the vacancies shall fill the vacancies by appointment.''
If another board vacancy were to occur before the April election, the County Council then would fill the two vacant seats. That would be unacceptable as the appointments would be made by elected officials having no connection to the school district instead of the remaining duly elected Mehlville school board members.
Therefore, we believe it's in the best interests of the Mehlville community that the Board of Education follows its own policy and fills the seat formerly held by Frank.