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Censure possible for school official

By Staff | Oct 7, 2009

Lee County School Board Member Robert Chilmonik could face censure for his against-the-grain attitude during board meetings.
After a heated discussion on changes in the district’s new payroll system, Board Member Jeanne Dozier introduced a motion to censure Chilmonik.
“He works under the table and behind the table, and when he presents information it is only half of the information,” she said.
Vice Chairman Steve Teuber, who served as board chair at Tuesday’s meeting, said he could not permit consensus at that meeting and suggested Dozier introduce the resolution at an action meeting.
Dozier said she plans to read it to the board Oct. 20.
The resolution stated that Chilmonik “was extremely critical of the school district, its staff and its students,” and his criticism of final decisions “is detrimental to the successful operation of the Lee County School Board.”
Dozier added that Chilmonik misrepresented himself in a letter to President Barack Obama that he sent to the White House at the end of September when he used stationary labeled for the board vice chairman.
Members were concerned that Chilmonik’s personal use of board letterhead was inappropriate since the rest of them did not consent to the letter, and that he represented himself as vice chairman.
Dozier added that Chilmonik refuses to follow the agreed upon board policies.
“We have a board member who has gone against these principals and roles,” she said. “Some of us think we don’t have to adhere to what we have agreed to.”
Chilmonik, who was cut off minutes earlier during a discussion of payroll issues, was not allowed to respond to the motion.
Later, he addressed the school board during public comment as a private citizen to point out how the board was discussing censorship once again, he said.
“Again, this was another attempt to eliminate any type of questions that will provide transparency and public awareness of how tax dollars are spent,” said Chilmonik. “I will continue to be the only school board member that stands up for our teachers, taxpayers and support personnel.”
A 30-year Lee County teacher named Charlotte Rafferty addressed the board to say she does not agree with every board decision, but said that Chilmonik should end his “ranting.”
“We need everybody in this district to be on board,” she said. “To disgrace our teachers and students for political fabrication is just sad.”
Members of the community who regularly attend school board meetings also addressed Chilmonik’s behavior during the meeting.
Sue Jacobse, mother of a child at Bonita Middle School, thanked the board for attempting to censure Chilmonik.
“I sit here week after week and I want to say thank you,” she said.
Cape Coral resident John Traube said the board’s behavior toward Chilmonik amounted to bullying, referring to an earlier motion when the board approved National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week.
“That is bullying,” he said. “A board member should have the right to speak out even though you don’t like what he says.”
Chairwoman Jane Kuckel suggested the board look at its policies in relation to what topics can be discussed during its briefing meetings.
Last year, they attempted to change the same policy, which would have disallowed board members to speak about anything other than personal involvement in the community, including public appearances or committee meetings.
“We should revisit what our procedures are for special areas of board involvement, what is appropriate and what is not,” she said.
Other members of the board said they will likely vote for the censure.
“Even after Ms. Dozier presents the censure motion at the next meeting and even after it passes, should it pass, the behavior of the school board member will continue,” said Board Member Elinor Scricca. “I say this because he has been in political campaign mode for the last three and a half years.”