June 13, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Frontenac School Board Plays Musical Chairs; Circumvents Election

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Frontenac School Board President Mike Bitner resigned his seat in one meeting only to be re-appointed into a vacant seat at the same meeting. Bitner’s term on the board was set to expire at the end of this year. With the re-appointment, he won’t stand for re-election until 2020.

A Frontenac School Board member resigned in one meeting only to be reappointed during the same meeting to a vacant seat that doesn’t have to stand for reelection for two years. In response, the Pittsburg Morning Sun is proposing legislation that would make such musical chair games with electoral seats illegal.

The Pittsburg Morning Sun called the seat swap “improper.” In an editorial, the paper proposes state legislation to prohibit members of any governing body from being appointed or elected to another seat for at least a year after resigning.

Patrick Richardson, managing editor of the Sun, said the Frontenac School Board completely circumvented the electoral process.

“An unscrupulous board could time things in such a way that nobody ever had to face an election. If you resign, you need to be off the board for at least a year. That’s not unreasonable,” Richardson said.

The Morning Sun editorial board stopped short of excoriating Frontenac school board members for its game of musical chairs.

“Whether or not the board member in question is good at his job, nor whether the community is happy to have him there is immaterial,” a Sun editorial reads. “The community was denied an opportunity to have its say through the electoral process. This whole matter has pointed out a loophole in the appointment process one could drive a Mack truck through.”

The Morning Sun’s proposal would close the loophole. The Morning Sun editorial board didn’t comment on the integrity of Frontenac board members. However, the Frontenac board skirted that line between what’s legal and what’s right, according to Richards.

“What they did was legal, but it sure wasn’t right,” he said. “…All we’re saying is bottom line, this was a bad idea.”

Five candidates vie for three at-large school board seats on the ballot in November.

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