A recent $10 thousand/year pay raise and four year contract extension for Lincoln Parish School Superintendent Mike Milstead may be null and void because the committee that recommended the action likely met in an illegal secret meeting.
At the 3/7/17 meeting of the board, a unanimous vote was made by the eleven members present to award the raise and extend the contract. However, the vote was upon the recommendation of the Executive Committee, chaired by Lynda Henderson (District 9). Other committee members are Curtis Dowling (District 3) and Danny Hancock (District 5).
As the action was recommended by a committee, there was no motion or second for the new contract.
If placed into effect, Milstead’s salary increases from $137 thousand/year to $147 thousand. Additionally, he receives, yearly, $7 thousand in medical benefits, $37.6 thousand in retirement contributions, and about $10 thousand in travel benefits.
The action has been questioned by some in the school system, as the district is facing an $8 million plus cut in Minimum Foundation Program funding from the state.
According to the approved minutes of the March meeting, the pay raise recommendation came from the committee.
President Joe Mitcham announced that Mike Milstead’s current term as Superintendent would expire on June 30, 2017. He turned the floor over to Lynda Henderson, Chairperson of the Executive Committee, whose committee consists of Danny Hancock and Curtis Dowling. On behalf of the Executive Committee, she said she would like to recommend that Superintendent Milstead’s contract be extended for an additional four (4) years and that his salary be increased by $10,000.00 effective July 1, 2017.
Joe Mitcham repeated the Executive Committee’s recommendation and added that all others terms and conditions of the original contract would remain the same. He asked for public comments or questions. After a few questions from the public and one comment by a board member, the Board unanimously voted by roll call to extend Superintendent Mike Milstead’s contract for an additional four (4) years, to increase his salary by $10,000.00, and for all of the other terms and conditions of the contract to remain the same.
See here the minutes.
We have reviewed our audio recording of the meeting (we record and archive ALL public meetings that we cover), and the minutes are an accurate reflection of the discussion that took place.
We requested a copy of the committee meeting minutes, agenda, and public notice a day after the March meeting.
See here our letter.
Two days later, Milstead replied in writing that there were no records, because there had been no meeting of the Executive Committee.
See here Milstead’s letter.
So the issue is can a committee that didn’t meet recommend an action be taken? And if the committee met secretly, are actions taken therein valid?
For that, we turn to Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law.
Voidability – Any action taken in violation of this Chapter shall be voidable by a court of competent jurisdiction. A suit to void any action must be commenced within sixty days of the action.
Civil Penalties – Any member of a public body who knowingly and wilfully participates in a meeting conducted in violation of this Chapter, shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed one hundred dollars per violation. The member shall be personally liable for the payment of such penalty. A suit to collect such penalty must be instituted within sixty days of the violation.
Meetings of public bodies to be open to the public
A. Every meeting of any public body shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to R.S. 42:16, 17, or 18.
B. Each public body shall be prohibited from utilizing any manner of proxy voting procedure, secret balloting, or any other means to circumvent the intent of this Chapter.
C. All votes made by members of a public body shall be viva voce and shall be recorded in the minutes, journal, or other official, written proceedings of the body, which shall be a public document.