MCPHERSON—Brian Meek has a bit of an issue with the McPherson Board of Education — an ethical issue that has arisen in the past few weeks as the board has navigated meeting in an age of COVID-19, social distancing and limits to gathering sizes advised by county, state and federal governments.
"We are not going to let people comment on the board meetings," Meek said.
Meek sees it as an ethical issue — though not a legal one.
"I am really concerned about the lack of transparency," Meek said. ".. People need to know that the board is avoiding them."
The Kansas Open Meetings Act does not require governmental boards to seek, ask for or allow for a public comment section during a meeting. The McPherson Board of Education is not breaking any law by not allowing public comment during meetings.
That is reflected in board policy — which states the board can allow for public comment if it desires to do so.
"Throughout the policy it states that the board "may" take public comments. At this time we are not doing that due to COVID-19 pandemic and necessary response. You will also see that we are not violating KOMA." wrote Shiloh Vincent, superintendent of McPherson schools to Meek in correspondence obtained by The Sentinel.
Meek had requested to speak at the next board of education meeting, planning to share concerns from the public that had been shared with him as a former BOE candidate.
Vincent replied to that request with a denial to Meek speaking publicly, but did offer to share concerns with board members.
That, however, was not enough for Meek — or many others who have commented on social media posts he created on his candidate Facebook page last week.
"The public is not really happy about this. It is not illegal, but something you want to look at," Meek said. "... It is not a violation of KOMA. They are not doing anything illegal. This goes back to what is good public relations and what is not. I think it turns people off and erodes the trust in the board."
Meek operates a Facebook page, where he live-streams McPherson BOE meetings. He told The Sentinel he plans to run for a seat on the board again.
"I ran for school board in the last election. I did not make it. What I have been telling people is even though I am not on the board I will do everything I can," Meek said.
Vincent was contacted via email by The Sentinel for this story. He did not respond.