Panther Valley school board will seek a Carbon County court order to keep a rogue member out of executive sessions.
The board on Thursday voted 7-2 to ask solicitor Robert T. Yurchak to ask the court to bar board member R. "Mickey" Angst from the closed sessions.
The board in August 2008 had voted 6-1 to shut Angst out of the sessions because he was releasing confidential information. At the time, the information concerned contract negotiations.
A move to reinstate him to the executive sessions in March 2010 failed by a 5-3 vote.
Angst had been complying with the exclusion. But, inexplicably, on Thursday he entered the board room and refused to leave, forcing the board to cancel its planned executive session.
As its first order of business when the board reconvened for its regular public session immediately following the aborted closed session, school director David Hiles moved to have Yurchak seek the court order.
The board supported his motion by a 7-2 vote, with Bill Hunsicker and Irene Genther casting the opposing votes. Michelle Markovich, Jeff Markovich, Koreen Nalesnik, Anthony DeMarco, Richard Zabroski and Hiles voted in favor of the motion.
Not only did Angst vote in favor of the request for a court order, he seconded Hiles' motion.
Angst claimed to have spoken with Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias, saying that Dobias "recommended that I do the same, and what he is saying is, you cannot have one minute of executive session ..."
At that point, other board members' objections that Angst's statement was "hearsay" obliterated the rest of his words.
Nalesnik said she voted in favor because "if we do not get the court order, then Mr. Angst should be able to attend the meetings."
Angst has been a thorn in the side of the board majority, releasing confidential information on his online blog. After Thursday's meeting, he gave a reporter a copy of that evening's executive session agenda, which included personnel matters, grievances and contract negotiations.
In other matters, the board adopted a $23,868,900 budget for next year that calls for a zero property tax increase in the Carbon County portion of the school district, and a 3.13 mill hike on the Coaldale, Schuylkill County, side.
That brings the tax rate in Coaldale to 52.24 mills, while the Carbon side remains at 55.69 mills, unchanged from the board's May 10 proposed budget.
That means the owner of a Coaldale property assessed for taxes at $25,000 would pay $1,306. The owner of a building of equal value on the Carbon County side would continue to pay $1,392.25.
The disparity results from different assessment formulae used in each county. Business manager Kenneth R. Marx Jr. has said that the rate increase in Coaldale is due to millage rebalancing.
On Tuesday, Coaldale councilman Joe Hnat criticized the increase, calling it unfair.
He said he has tried to get explanations for the increase, but has gotten no answers. Hnat blamed the situation in part on the lack of tax revenue from BET, the company that acquired the former LC&N mining operations in the borough.