UPDATE: School Board Chairman Said Brentsville Member Cannot Vote on Release of Predecessors’ Emails

| January 19, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Gil Trenum, Brentsville representative to the Prince William County School Board

Updated Jan. 19 at 9:15 with more information from Chairman Ryan Sawyers. 

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers told Brentsville School Board member Gil Trenum that he would not be permitted to vote on an agenda item as to whether current board members should be allowed access to their predecessors’ emails.

Sawyers said there is a need for board members to gain access old emails as a matter of equity so that all members would have the same access to prior information. Read prior article here.

In a letter Wednesday, Sawyers wrote that Trenum was a part of an old boys’ network that was not inclusive and often acted unilaterally excluding other members.

“Since you benefit from the current status quo I am informing you that you are in conflict of interest and cannot vote on this issue. The era of secrecy and ‘good old boys’ policy in Prince William County Schools is over,” said Sawyers in the letter. 

According to the Virginia Local Government Conflict of Interests Acts 2.2-31 Policy: application; construction; “Personal interest” means “a financial benefit or liability accruing to an officer or employee or to a member of his immediate family.”

Trenum shared his reply with Bristow Beat.

“No … Just No … You have no authority to tell me when I am in a conflict of interest situation and must recuse myself. I do not work for you, I represent the citizens of the Brentsville District.”

“No board member works for you. In fact, nobody in the entire school division works for you. Your authority on personnel matters exists only as one of eight members of the School Board. No more and no less.”

“Once again you have taken a simple situation and found a way to create drama as opposed to just determining what the correct process was and moving forward in the correct manner.”

Sawyers responded Friday evening, saying that he cannot and would not prevent someone from voting.

“Rather, I was making the rather obvious point that Mr. Trenum has an obvious conflict of interest, and that the prudent measure will be for him to recuse himself if his vote would be “no” on the motion,” he said.

He said that it would apply not only to Trenum but to other members as well.

“To the extent either one would vote to deny their fellow members access on par with their own, yes, that would be a conflict,” said Sawyers.

In his letter, Trenum disputed Sawyers’ accusation that he does not want transparency, saying he has championed transparency especially through involving more citizens in the budget process, and he claims to have only acted through board votes.

Additionally, he said that policy change to not allow any school board member to add an item to the agenda without the approval of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman takes away transparency by limiting discussions on issues board members want to bring forward on behalf of citizens.

Sawyers maintained that providing access to previous emails is a matter of equity to all school board members and that essentially those emails were never private correspondences.

Sawyers also believes more access to information could help the board exert more oversight over the school division and its leadership. Additionally, gaining access to that information would be much easier than having to issue various FOIA requests.

According to Sawyers, under the current system, the school division controls the flow of information rather than the school board.

A photo of Trenum’s response can be found at the Friends of Alyson Satterwhite Facebook page. 

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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