By Sentry Staff

Approving the minutes from previous meetings is usually a routine course of action taken by board members, as they plow through the agenda of the current meeting.

The  Orange  Unified  School District Board of Trustees had reached that point during its June 23 meeting, when Kathy Moffat startled observers by challenging the minutes from the May 12 meeting, and noting she could not approve them as written.

Those minutes, she said, reflected that Tim Surridge was in attendance, but he had actually left the meeting right after roll call. “The meeting was called to order at 7:03,” she reminded the board, “and Mr. Surridge left at 7:04. Any reasonable person would conclude that he did not attend the meeting.”

Moffat’s break with custom was met with silence.

“This is important,” Moffat continued, “because in April 2012, this board voted in a policy change that said that if a board member attended any part of a meeting, that counted as being there, and the trustee would be remunerated. I opposed that policy change. I don’t think attending a meeting for one minute counts. And neither does any other reasonable person.”

Again silence, interrupted only by papers being shuffled, chairs being shifted, and finally a motion to approve the minutes. John Ortega, not physically present but participating by phone, abstained from the minute approval vote because he had been absent May 12.  Mark Wayland, Rick Ledesma and Alexia Deligianni-Brydges voted to approve the minutes as written, as did Tim Surridge.

“Why is Mr. Surridge ratifying the accuracy of the minutes when he wasn’t here?” Moffat interjected. Superintendent Mike Christensen explained that board members approve the minutes based on their personal knowledge that they are accurate. “If you know something is wrong, you can vote against it,” he said.

Although it is common practice for board members (of any board, not just school districts) to abstain from minute approval if they had not attended, there is no requirement in parliamentary procedure that a member have eyewitness knowledge of something before voting on minutes.  A member can, in fact, approve minutes of a meeting that he or she did not attend.

“Does that mean I can change my vote?” Ortega asked via telephone. “Yes,” Christensen said.  Ortega  subsequently  changed his abstention to a “yes,” and the minutes were approved without correction by a 5-2 vote.  Moffat and Andrea Yamasaki voted “no.”

Board members receive $750 per month in compensation.

OUSD Board Member Leaves Meeting After  in 60 Seconds