Meeting gets heated over public participation

Emotions bubbled over early on at last week’s Ennis School Board meeting resulting in a Madison County Sheriff’s deputy being called to sit in on the remainder of the meeting.

The confrontation involved board chair Marc Glines and Kelly Robinson, an Ennis resident who has been critical of the board and superintendent Doug Walsh at recent board meetings.

After public comment was taken at the beginning of the meeting, Ennis School District clerk Ginger Martello read some letters written to the board referring to comments Robinson made at the February school board meeting.

After Martello finished reading the letters, Robinson spoke to the board about the letters. Glines informed her that public comment was closed and that she couldn’t speak.

“I will not be silenced,” Robinson said and continued with her comments.

Glines interrupted her again and said the public comment was closed.

“I will not be silenced!” Robinson yelled. “I don’t live in Libya, Marc Glines!”

Glines told her that if she made any further outbursts, he would call law enforcement and have her removed from the meeting.

Robinson responded that it was her right as a U.S. citizen to speak at a public meeting.

Robinson continued on and Glines halted the meeting.

“I will call this meeting to dismissal and I will go call law enforcement,” he said and left the room with Walsh.

About 25 people attended the meeting and waited about 10 minutes for Glines and Walsh to return. About five minutes later a Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived and remained through nearly the entire meeting.

Glines called the meeting back to order and said that further outbursts would result in removal from the meeting and a disorderly conduct charge.

Later in the meeting, after several other community members spoke unprompted to the board, Dave Hunt voiced his frustration with how the meeting was being handled.

The problem was the board took questions and comments from citizens during the entire meeting, but wouldn’t let Robinson speak.

“There was a clear attempt by you to thwart comments,” Hunt said referring to the conflict between Glines and Robinson.

Glines listened to Hunt, but didn’t respond to his comments.

The incident highlights rising tensions at recent school board meetings as a handful of citizens have voiced their frustrations with the funding of the new school building and particularly superintendent Doug Walsh’s contracts as a third time superintendent and two thirds time bus supervisor.

The school board has been reluctant to address questions about Walsh’s contracts and the new school funding due to a lawsuit filed by Ennis resident David Kelley.

In August, Kelley filed a lawsuit against Doug Walsh and the Ennis School Board claiming essentially that Walsh’s contract as bus supervisor is fraudulent. The lawsuit also claims that the school spent money illegally out of the adult education and transportation funds. It also claims Walsh’s contracts with the school, dating back to when he officially retired as superintendent in 2001, are in violation of laws governing the Montana Teacher’s Retirement system.

Robinson, who is married to Kelley and works as a substitute teacher, voiced her concerns and frustrations with the school board and Walsh at February’s school board meeting as well.

2 Responses to Meeting gets heated over public participation

  1. L. Alexander says:

    Sounds like the board has something to hide. From what I understand, the suit that Kelley brought is motivated only by the public interest, on behalf of the taxpayers who are being cheated. Let the woman speak!

  2. K. Barnes says:

    I’ve lived in Ennis since 1993 and both of my kids graduated from Ennis High School. There have been many improvements at the school in the time we’ve lived here, and I am thankful our taxes weren’t raised to pay for a much needed new school. Board members volunteer their time to do the community a service and I don’t believe the board is trying to hide anything-after all they are going through a 3rd audit to show there is no wrongdoing. Any time a lawsuit is involved, members must be very cautious about making comments (especially when someone is bringing a tape recorder to meetings hoping to catch someone saying something that might be misconstrued by those not at the meeting). Hopefully, after this current audit is completed, things will settle down.

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