Talladega City Board of Education

The Talladega City Board of Education includes (from left) Mary McGhee, Jake Montgomery, Shirley Simmons-Sims, Chuck Roberts and James Braswell.

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega City Board of Education’s 4-1 vote to approve a superintendent’s contract with Tony Ball, of Scottsboro, was overshadowed Tuesday night by an unprecedented resolution revoking the speaking privileges of one of its own members.

District 2 representative Mary McGhee had been censured by her fellow board members in 2017 for making unsubstantiated claims against Talladega High School Assistant Principal and former athletic director Chucky Miller.

She made similar claims against Miller during a public meeting last month and in a written statement provided to The Daily Home afterward. Miller attended the next board meeting with an attorney from the Alabama Education Association as well as a private attorney and threatened to file suit against the board if he was not given a written apology.

McGhee indicated that she would not apologize.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board adjourned into executive session for about 35 minutes with attorney Charlie Gaines to discuss a matter regarding possible litigation. Ball appeared to attend the closed meeting, although interim Superintendent Gloria Thomas did not.

When the board returned to regular public session, it voted 4-1, with McGhee obviously dissenting, to authorize Gaines to write the apology letter demanded by Miller’s attorneys.

The board then took up and approved a resolution recommended by Gaines that essentially limits McGhee’s speaking privileges to duly convened executive sessions. The document is headed, “Resolution to revoke the speaking privileges of Mary McGhee.”

The resolution cites the order and decorum demanded by Roberts Rules of Order as a starting point and points out that “the privilege of members of any governing body to speak is governed by compliance with the established rules of order and is not an unfettered and absolute right.

“The majority of a governing body has the inherent authority to maintain order during its meetings, and when a majority of the governing body determines that a member has abused the privilege of addressing the board or audience, thereby disrupting the orderly proceedings and operations, then a member’s privileges may be curtailed, restrained or prohibited.”

McGhee’s still unsubstantiated statements against Miller and other administrators not mentioned by name is cited in the resolution as a continued embarrassment to the board, “a continuing breach of order and decorum unacceptable for public officials” and show a lack of “the moral compass found in reasonable people exercising their privilege of making public statements.”

The resolution goes on to say McGhee’s previous statements leading up to her censure were false, and that she has continued to make similar statements without any new evidence and only with the intent to defame Miller and other employees. By doing so, she has exposed the board to lawsuits and financial liability.

“It is the duty of each board member to ascertain the truthfulness of statements, allegations and assertions prior to making statements orally or in writing, and the failure of a board member to ascertain the truthfulness of statements prior to speaking is an act of willful misconduct and willful neglect of duty,” the resolution says.

“A competent board member should always endeavor to determine the truthfulness of allegations prior to making (them) public, and thus, the failure to do so renders the board member incompetent.”

Her statements also diminish the credibility of the board and interfere with its ability to function, the resolution says.

“The board recognizes this action is drastic, but all attempts by this board and others to have Mrs. McGhee exercise self-restraint and good boardsmanship have been futile,” the resolution states.

As a result, McGhee is now barred from speaking at any board meeting regarding “any matter where she names, identifies or by inference identifies an individual unless such comments are made in an executive session.”

She is also barred from “questioning the character or work performance of any individual making a presentation to the board unless such statements are made in executive session.”

The resolution also forbids her from making public statements in her capacity as a board member exposing the district to any further financial liability; violating any of the above terms shall be grounds for exclusion from the public meeting where the statements are made.

McGhee is also directed to contact the Alabama Association of School Boards for further training. A copy of the resolution is to be forwarded to state Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey.

Aside from her no vote, McGhee seemed more concerned with obtaining an “unedited” recording of the board’s previous meeting in order to fact check The Daily Home’s coverage of that meeting.

McGhee refused to say what she felt might be inaccurate in the coverage of that meeting, but would only say “there were some inequities” in the published coverage. I’m not gonna say what they are right now, but it will come out,” she said.

Further coverage of Tuesday’s meeting, including the details of Ball’s contract, will appear in Thursday’s Daily Home.