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Expert: CUSD Goofed in Snuffing Budget Debate

When four trustees agreed to end debate of the teachers' contract and 2012-13 budget before it began, they broke the very rules they were invoking. But that doesn't undo the ultimate vote.

UPDATED: At 1:12 p.m. with reaction quote from Trustee John Alpay.

Was it appropriate for trustees of the to block debate on the 2012-13 school budget before the discussion even began?

Procedurally no, according to a noted parliamentarian. However, the underlying votes still stand, said Daniel Seabold, a professor at Hofstra University in New York who is also one of the current authors of the official Robert’s Rules of Order manual

At a meeting Wednesday night, once when considering a new contract with the teachers’ union and again during consideration of the actual budget.

Both times, he made his motion just as Trustee Ellen Addonizio began to speak. The end result was little to no discussion on , and a $331-million budget that .

But in Robert’s Rules of Order, which is the guideline trustees use to run meetings, there is no such thing as a motion “to end debate,” Seabold said.

There is a motion that effectively serves the same purpose, Seabold said, but it needs a two-thirds vote to pass, which didn't happen Wednesday. The alternate motion is dubbed a “call for the previous question.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, both of Alpay’s debate-ending motions passed by a vote of 4-3 (with Trustees Addonizio, Sue Palazzo and Anna Bryson dissenting), which is not a two-thirds majority.

Although a call for the previous question may occur before any debate takes place, it is “more commonly moved after some debate has occurred,” Seabold said.

Despite the rules violation, the eventual votes on the contract and budget still stand, Seabold said.

“Procedural errors of the sort we are contemplating would not nullify the adoption of a motion,” he said. “In general, the way to correct procedural errors is raise a ‘point of order’ at the time they are made.”

Addonizio did so at the time, but President Gary Pritchard said Alpay’s motion, seconded by Trustee Jack Brick, was allowable.

“You’re out of order, Trustee Addonizio. Robert’s Rules of Order,” Pritchard said. When Addonizio challenged him (as Seabold suggested), he responded: “No, we’re absolutely not going out of procedure.”

When Alpay was asked for comment Thursday, he submitted this statement:

My motion to move the previous question was proper, procedurally correct and received the required second. I would agree with Mr. Seabold that per Robert Rules, my motion requires a two-thirds majority to pass. That said, my reading of Roberts Rules does allow for alternate practices to be exercised by a governing body.  Such alternate practices, per Roberts Rules are also valid and binding on the board until such time a member makes a valid point of order regarding the application of the rule, at which point the governing body is required to revert to the written rules expressly set forth in Roberts Rules. Ellen failed to properly articulate anything to that effect in a point of order.  If Ellen wishes to reopen debate on the underlying issue, provided she is in compliance with Robert's Rules, that is certainly her prerogative.

Attempts to reach Pritchard for comment weren't successful.

bbq June 28, 2012 at 11:18 PM
mathteacher, You seem like a very reasonable person. Perhaps you should run for the board. Now these guys (trustees) are the REAL thugs!
lovelovelove` June 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Alpay is the man. he cares for the district and serves with the best interests of the district in mind. alpay for governor in 2016!
Denise Krane June 29, 2012 at 01:20 AM
This is nothing more than punitive payback to Trustee Addonizio taking her message directly to her constituents. "I'll-pay" and the other CUEA marionettes on the board have sent a clear message to the voters about transparency-"Speak in public and we'll silence you."
Capo Parent June 29, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I guess that would make him "Son of Moonbeam," I shudder at the thought.
Capo Parent Too June 29, 2012 at 05:37 PM
That's funny, why did she keep saying in that "Open forum" held by a republican club (Ellen's seat is non partisan), that she would say more but there was "Press in the room". She's not about being transparent, she's about grandstanding when it's convenient and serves her political purposes. There were less people in this board meeting than the last, only about 10 of her "Supporters" showed up. This was about her making a political statement and belittle staff, asking questions that she should have aksed weeks prior to the board meeting and generally showing that she doesn't give one iota about kids but about her political career. No one likes to bring up the fact that Ellen ran for School Board and WATER BOARD last time around. I guess she was just hedging her bets.
Capo Parent June 29, 2012 at 06:07 PM
CP2 I know you want to divert attention from the outrageous behavior by the shady trustees you support, but stay focused. We're not talking about Ellen speaking at a public meeting, we're talking about the concerted efforts of Alpay & Pritchard to keep Ellen from debating pending motions before the CUSD board. What they did is undemocratic, appalling, disgusting and inexcusable, except by people like you.
Capo Parent Too June 29, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I addressed that by pointing out that her remarks for a few supporters and were probably politically motivated and had nothing to do with the kids. Ellen doesn't even know how to behave around school children, she is awkward to say the least. Unfortunately, when you're the minority and you're doing everything you can to tear down any good will in the district, make things dysfunctional, break down the process and have nothing of value to add to a conversation, it's best to actually not let you speak. Ellen playing the victim card is absurd. Penny making this a "controversy" is manufactured. But hey, I guess she's not writing about the budget, is she? As long as she gets all the clicks she can, that's all she seems to care about. It's amazing how other things can take place at a board meeting, but a motion to stop disruptive and grandstanding behavior by a minority on a school board gets three stories in two days is amazing.
Capo mom June 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Trustees Alpay and Pritchard, not only violated Roberts Rules of Order and disrespected their colleague who is an elected representative just as they are, they deprived every family and taxpayer in CUSD of a chance to get information on a difficult and painful process in a public forum. Their behavior was abusive and juvenile. Denise, I like your monicker for Alpay. Mind if I borrow it?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I didn't cover the budget? It seems it's ALL I've been covering lately. There was only one change made (the reduction to trustee stipends), which I duly noted in the original story. But if you want comprehensive coverage of the budget, here you go! Three stories detailing what's in the budget as presented in the June 27 agenda packet: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/cusd-to-consider-a-shrinking-budget http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/d-j-vu-for-capo-s-budget-next-year http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/cusd-a-close-up-of-the-new-contracts If you put CUSD and budget into our search engine, you'll get 136 stories in the results, 64 of which are from this year. I'll let you do the legwork.
Capo Parent Too June 29, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Penny, you have covered the budget extensively, but you made your focus of a very important board meeting that dealt with a budget issue and other items about Ellen not getting to read her prepared statements. That was my point. You took this and ran with it because it makes great headlines.
Lawrene Bottorf June 29, 2012 at 10:31 PM
This would also not excuse you from paying taxes. I second the motion...A.Barrera in '12!
Capo Parent June 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM
CP2 You're coming across as a bigger fool than "I'llpay." Stop while you're only slightly behind. You make yourself look even more foolish by attacking Ellen for attempting to read from prepared notes. At least she was prepared to discuss the issues. The same can't be said for the terrible foursome, I'llpay, Pritchard, Hatton & Brick.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 29, 2012 at 11:13 PM
What was new in approving the budget? The budget was largely unchanged from Monday's trio of stories (with the exception of trustee stipend, which I reported). I report what's new, hence the word, news. I also report what happens at board meetings. Otherwise, why go? This happened. There was no meaningful discussion of the budget by trustees. Trustee Bryson made a statement. Trustee Palazzo asked a few questions. Then the "motion to end debate." From what I could see, no actual debate began. If it makes great headlines, it's only because it's what people want to read.
Proud Mom June 30, 2012 at 12:33 AM
CP2 - I sit here with my mouth ajar reading your comments. How could something so shameful, disturbing, shocking, maddening, jaw-dropping, and disgusting could sit so well with you ... is beyond me. As a tax payer, we have a right to an open debate before 15 days are taken away from our children; before class sizes are increased; before programs are cut. Who does Alpay think he is? It goes against everything our country stands for - democracy. It is very interesting how you can quickly change the subject and divert the attention to something else. Thank you Penny for keeping us informed on the facts.
Capo Parent June 30, 2012 at 03:43 PM
CP2 You can't help yourself. Once you get in a hole you gotta make it deeper. Do you realize how foolish you look? Ellen's not the story, the contrived efforts of "I'llpay" and Pritchard to keep Ellen from speaking, as a trustee, on serious motions pending before the board, is the issue. I understand your desperate need to divert attention from your shady trustees, but no one is buying the BS, so stop before you look like a total fool.
Capo Parent 3 July 01, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Capo Parent 2 I was at the meeting too - and you have it just right. A LOT more was said and done at the meeting - There was information about technology, special ed and other programs. In fact, the 3 No's on the budget were the same NO's on the motion for trustees to take a pay cut commensurate with the rest of the reductions. Was that reported? None of this seems important to most of Ellen's "constituents" - they left as soon as the budget votes were done - they always do. They leave as soon as they speak and then complain about things not being open. Perhaps if they stayed to hear the everything that's going in the district, they would have to re-think their entrenched positions. Capo Parent - you always result to name-calling. Because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make them a fool....you are just rude.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) July 01, 2012 at 11:35 PM
The trustee pay issue was an amendment to the budget motion. It was not a separate vote.
fact checker July 02, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Do any trustees return your calls Penny? If so would you ask them their view on a commensurate cut to their compensation.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) July 02, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Almost all of them. And sure. Any you're more interested in than others?
fact checker July 02, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Not really on that question, but it would be good to know why the three voted against the budget. Specifically. I assume it was the furlough days. If so how would they divide the salary cuts between furlough days and pay cut percentage.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) July 02, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Those are really good questions. I'll ask.
Capo Parent July 02, 2012 at 04:47 AM
CP3 aka CP2 I was trying to get your alter ego from continuing to act like a fool. I didn't know you would beat him or her to the punch. The points you are trying to make to deflect from the asinine behavior of "I'llpay" and Pritchard are laughable and feeble. Try and stay focuses, the issue is the concerted efforts of "I'llpay" and Pritchard to stifle debate by Ellen, not what other matters the board discussed. As for the claim I'm being rude, all I can say is that the truth hurts sometime and some people, when faced with the truth, try to deflect the truth by calling others names. Sounds familiar?
Capo Parent July 02, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Maybe if the terrible four had allowed public hearings and public debate on the budget before it was adopted we would know the answers to the questions raised.
Jane Lambson July 02, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Did I read Alpay's statement correctly? So he can deviate from RR of Order to cut off debate, but another BOT must use RR of Order to implement discussion or make a motion? And what "alternate practices" should be used when conducting a meeting? Shouldn't variations of RR of Order be voted upon? Sound like Alpay's legal jargon is just a way of saving face. Any parliamentarians out there?
Capo mom July 02, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Actually the union's board majority voted to increase their own compensation at the last meeting. "I'll-pay" made the motion I believe. The previous board had cut their compensation by 50%, his motion restored it to the maximum allowed by the ed code.
Alberto Barrera July 03, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Does pan-handling count as a summer job? It also happens to be tax free.
Lawrene Bottorf July 03, 2012 at 06:46 PM
@ Alberto...Panhandling...you mean asking for money to do nothing??? Like our politicians?
Alberto Barrera July 03, 2012 at 06:56 PM
@Lawrene politicians actually have the upperhand considering that they don't have to ask for your money. In the end however, people would much rather give their money to a panhandler who actually tells them what he's going to do with their money.
Art B July 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Why would anyone be surprised that politicians (especially CAPO Trustees), have such a low regard for established rules, open discussion, or courteous behavior? Our country's politicians (and states and cities) have become so enamored with their own power and importance that our democratic principles just seem to be an annoyance that gets in the way of what they want to accomplish, with no concern for their colleagues or constituents. There was a time when many of us believed that the government closest to the people was the best possible government - dedicated citizens who were just concerned with their communities. Not any more. Local government (such as the City of Bell and CUSD Trustees) are filled will self serving politicians just looking for the opportunity to make a mark for themselves in order to run for higher office or even worse looking for the opportunity to make money from unsuspecting and disinterested constituents.
Capo Dad July 10, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Yes, he clearly cares for the best interests of his district's teachers' union.

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