Henderson questions BOE appointment

Published 3:00 am Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dejerilyn Henderson wants the City Council to rescind its recent appointment to the Troy City Schools Board of Education and reopen the process, considering a nominee from her district.

The council voted 4-1 on May 12 to appoint Rhonda Pollard to replace Jason Thomas on the school board, with Henderson opposing the appointment.

On May 19, Henderson sent a letter to the mayor and council members, expressing her displeasure with the process.

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“I will give you the option to rescind the appointment of Rhonda Pollard to the Troy City board of Education and put a member on the board from District 5,” she wrote in the letter. “I place in nomination Mr. Jason B. Thomas.”

Thomas was appointed in January 2012 to fill the remainder of a term being vacated by a board member who moved. The term expires May 31, 2015.

“If you convince me that he is unfit for the re-appointment, I will submit another nominee; but you must give me a legal and proper reason, not just that he has done his job (sic),” she continues in the letter.

Henderson objects to Pollard’s appointment in part because she is not a resident of District 5. “In the past each council person made a recommendation from the district as to whom they wish to represent their district on the Troy Broad of Education. This is the first time that the process was not followed,” Henderson said in an interview.

Rainer Cotter, attorney, Marsh & Cotter, LLP out of Enterprise, said the council often just attempts to appoint the best qualified person for the position, regardless of district lines.

“When there is an appointment to any board, the City Council attempts to appoint the best qualified person under the circumstances,” Cotter said. “In fact, another council member, Johnny Witherington, does not have any board of education members who live in his district.”

Henderson said she believes each district should be represented.

“I think every district should be represented on the Troy City Board of Education,” Henderson said. “I think someone should come from each city council district to represent those constituents on the Troy City Board of Education. The neighborhoods that make up the districts are the neighborhoods that are representatives of the children who attend Troy City Schools. If you have a representative from each district of the council appointed to the school board then you’re representing your city and your students who attend your schools, which is the fair thing in my opinion to do.”

In her letter, Henderson further points out that she felt the decision to appoint Pollard was made after the public made suggestions against reappointing Thomas. Cotter said the mayor and council were welcome to take suggestions from the public.

“That is what living in an open democracy is all about,” Cotter said. “But, ultimately, the council has to make the final call as to the best qualified person for the job under the circumstances. I believe that is what happened in the case of Ms. Pollard’s appointment.”

Thomas said if he were to be given the opportunity to serve a full-term on the board he would take it. “I would be on the board to serve to the children of Troy,” he said. “I would want to represent the people in my district.”

Henderson’s letter also touched on other practices of the city council she said violate the law according to the Alabama Open Meeting Act and the Code of Alabama, including the work sessions held prior to council meetings.

“I have gotten more complaints about that than you can imagine,” Henderson said. “People are wondering why they have to go crowd in a little, itty-bitty room that is upstairs behind closed doors that they have to be escorted to and then they have to be crowded into something that is supposedly open to the public.”

Henderson said she simply wants the public to have access to information that pertains to public business. “Anything coming before the city council is public business.”

However, Cotter said after critical review of the council’s practice, he believes the council is well within the legal parameters set by the act.

“I have reviewed with city personnel the procedures which have been followed in relation to the referenced meetings and I am satisfied those requirements have been and are being met,” Cotter said. “The city has followed the laws and any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. Also, from my research in speaking with city officials, until her letter expressing dissatisfaction over Ms. Pollard’s appointment, Ms. Henderson has never objected to or protested any city council meetings, work sessions and/or executive sessions.”

Cotter said the city would make no more comments concerning the situation as city officials are still assessing what action would be taken as to the “wrongful statements” made by Henderson.