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W-JCC Board Chair cited in affidavit

WILLIAMSBURG— A Williamsburg man filed an affidavit against the Williamsburg-James City County School Board Chairman for allegedly violating his right to observe the election of newly-chosen board member Mary Minor.

Michael Loy, 46, filed the affidavit against Board Chair Jim Kelly in James City County General District Court on Friday.

In it, Loy states that the agenda for Feb. 19 indicated the meeting was a closed-session meeting, which the public is not allowed to observe.

Loy said the wording of the agenda led him to believe the entire meeting was a closed session, and therefore the board had failed to give public notice.

The agenda stated that it was a “Closed Session at 5:00 p.m. to interview candidates for the Powhatan District Seat.”

Under Virginia law, school boards must hold meetings in public and can only go into closed session for specific reasons – including interviews of candidates for an open seat.

Before a closed session, the board must cite the specific exemption before they convene behind closed doors, and no votes can be taken in a closed session.  

In his affidavit, Loy stated: “I was denied the right to observe the vote taken on February 19, 2016 by the W-JCC School Board because no public notice of an open meeting to conduct an official vote to appoint a new school board member was given.”

Megan Rhyne, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said the Freedom of Information Act requires a public body to give notice at least three days in advance of a meeting, but there are no laws dictating what a public body must put on an agenda.

Rhyne also said all posted meetings are presumed to be open, even if the first item on the agenda is a closed session.

On the evening of the vote, the board began with an open session and then went into a closed session, said Kelly. After interviewing the candidates for the Powhatan seat and deliberating, the board opened the doors to the proceedings and formally moved into an open session before taking a vote.

Two members of the media and the board clerk observed the vote.

Kelly said during his tenure the board has appointed new members twice and the board “followed the same process we did the last two times.”

Loy said he filed the injunction to let the board know citizens are keeping track of its activities and to “Put Kelly on notice.”

“I am a voice for many who are concerned about retribution for standing in front of the school board,” Loy said.

Loy also took issue with the outcome of the Feb. 19 vote.

“Mrs. Minor’s place on the school board was determined before the vote,” Loy said. “It was proposed to solidify Dr. Constantino’s personal agenda for a 4th middle school and a notch in his belt.”

Loy says he is the PTA President at Clara Byrd Baker Elementary and works as a federal agent with the Transportation Security Administration.

McKinnon can be reached at 757-345-2341.

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