COVINGTON -- A push by Board of Education Chairman Eddie Johnson to expedite a vote on a 2013 SPLOST resolution led to confusion over parliamentary procedure at the board's work session Tuesday night. The board first voted in a split decision to call for the referendum and then reversed position, voting to withdraw the earlier vote.
A resolution calling for a special purpose local option sales tax referendum was on the board's agenda under new business but was not scheduled for a vote Tuesday night. However, board Chairman Eddie Johnson told board members he would like to go ahead and vote on the measure and asked for board members' input.
Although board members Shakila Henderson-Baker and Jeff Meadors said they would prefer more time to review the resolution, Johnson called for a motion.
Board member Almond Turner made the motion to call for the $75 million referendum; the motion was seconded by Johnson and supported by board member Abigail Coggins. Baker and Meadors voted in opposition.
In discussion of the issue, Meadors pointed out that the resolution was listed under new business and was not scheduled for board action Tuesday. "(There are) two of us telling you we need more time to process it, which is what the agenda has said we would do," he said.
Coggins then said she had misunderstood the motion, and thought that Turner's motion was only to make it possible for the board to take action on the resolution, not an actual vote on the resolution.
"Don't we still have to have a motion to approve it?" she asked.
Meadors reiterated the need for more time to review the resolution, but he was cut short by Johnson.
"We voted on this tonight, so now any other questions on this, I think you are out of order," he said.
The board moved on to other agenda items, but returned to the SPLOST resolution at the end of the meeting during time set aside for board member comments.
Baker requested clarification of the action taken on the SPLOST resolution based on the fact that the board had approved the agenda, which included the resolution as a non-action item.
"I need to clarify the rule, because we voted on the agenda and we approved the agenda," said Baker. "Therefore, we would have to go by the agenda we already voted on, and Item A was not an action item."
"I guess technically we should have amended the agenda," said Coggins, repeating that she had not realized they were going to vote on the actual resolution Tuesday night.
Superintendent Gary Matthews told board members that the public would have expected the board to vote on the resolution in a voting session, not a work session.
"My opinion is, for us to have the best opportunity to get this very important SPLOST passed, we want all five board members on board," Mathews said.
"I would hope the board would revote tonight, redo this, and then agree to vote on Nov. 27 as a group," Mathews added.
Johnson defended his decision to call for a vote and said he believed his intent was clear.
"I wanted to do the best thing, I thought I was doing it, and I was speaking English, to vote on that tonight to expedite it. I don't think there was any ambiguity in what I was saying," said Johnson.
Turner indicated he was willing to withdraw his motion and vote again in two weeks.
"We want to strive for the fact that we are unified, No. 1," he said, "and No. 2, it's not a situation where it will, in my opinion, cause any great harm if we waited."
Turner made a motion to withdraw his earlier motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Coggins. The motion failed because Johnson was opposed and Baker and Meadors didn't vote based on their belief that they could not vote to withdraw a motion they hadn't supported in the first place.
After some discussion, it was determined that Baker and Meadors could vote to withdraw Turner's earlier motion.
Turner made another motion to withdraw his earlier motion to approve the SPLOST resolution. It passed 4 to 1, with Johnson opposed.
The resolution is expected to be on the BOE's Nov. 27 meeting agenda.