Manatee County School Board Chairman Scott Hopes effectively halted a vote to remove him, calling the motion illegal and out of order at a board meeting on Tuesday evening.
Board member Charlie Kennedy made the motion on March 23. The motion carried 3-2 and, after two hours of discussion, it was postponed until Tuesday's meeting.
Kennedy said he attended a productive training session with the board and was nearly ready to put his grievances in the past. His mind changed when he noticed the vote was nowhere to be found on an agenda for Tuesday's board meeting.
Vice-chair Gina Messenger added her own concerns about the missing agenda item, adding that she was "incensed" when she first noticed the vote was missing.
"If that can so easily be removed, even though the majority of the board voted in favor of it, what else could be removed without the board's knowledge?" Messenger said. "What else could be hidden by way of the same action?"
Later in Tuesday's meeting, Hopes said he was under the impression that board members had resolved the issue at their training session, and that he removed the agenda item.
"We had a good working session among the five of us, and we talked about how we felt and what we weren't happy about, and we apologized to each other," he said. "We shook hands for pictures."
"And one by one the facilitator asked us if we were putting this behind us, and one by one we said, 'yes,' " Hopes added.
As Tuesday's discussion first began, Kennedy said he wanted to improve his relationship with Hopes, regardless of whether the board voted to rescind his appointment.
"Much has been said tonight and much has been said over the last couple weeks," Kennedy said. "First of all, I'm certainly not interested in some kind of show trial or public flogging or airing of grievances."
His demeanor soon changed when Hopes said the vote would not be allowed, citing the board's bylaws and Robert's Rules of Order.
School board attorney James Dye, however, said the motion was legal under Florida law. Hopes disagreed and continued to hold his position.
"The ruling of the chair is the motion is out of order — it is not allowed," he said.
Board member Dave Miner made a motion to appeal Hopes' decision, but nobody seconded the motion. Hopes said the motion was effectively dead, and the board attorney agreed.
"Mr. Hopes, I think it's an unwise person who seeks to rule when the majority does not wish him to continue to rule, and I think that your doing everything to block a motion will only lead to it the next meeting being brought up," Miner said.
The debate persisted as Kennedy, Miner and Messenger expressed their frustration about the decision. They felt Hopes made a "ruling" when he should have let the board make its decision through a vote.
Kennedy originally made the motion after a dispute between Miner and Hopes outside the School District of Manatee County administration building at 215 Manatee Ave. W.
Hopes, speaking to a police officer about Miner, allegedly said, "He's lucky my gun was in my car." Board member John Colon has said that Hopes was referring to a car that was parked at his house, not the truck that he was driving on the day of the argument.
Messenger said on Tuesday that she, too, had hoped the issue would be resolved without more infighting.
"I really genuinely hoped that we could have a conversation and everybody just get along and then go out and have pizza and play trivia together," she said during the meeting.