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Secret raise ignites anger

Eureka School board admits Brown Act violations
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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The Eureka Union School Board admitted to inadvertently violating the Brown Act when it increased Superintendent Tim McCarty’s salary in 2008. During a board meeting Tuesday that was packed wall-to-wall with teachers and parents, the board admitted to breaching the Brown Act in November 2008 when it amended McCarty’s contract to increase his base salary by 8 percent. The Brown Act was enacted to ensure the public’s right to participate in meetings and ensures elected officials such as city councils, boards and local government bodies maintain a level of transparency with their community. The Brown Act infractions were made known when McCarty’s personnel file was stolen recently from the District office and the contents mailed anonymously to teachers and employees in the district. “We are embarrassed by the mistake of not following the proper procedures and processes,” Dangberg said. “We are not disappointed that this came to light, but we are disappointed and frustrated with how with the theft of a personnel file, instead of coming forward and saying ‘I have a problem with this.’” According to Board President Lori Dangberg, in June 2008 the board offered McCarty a contract with a base salary of $150,000 as well as two scheduled 3 percent increases. However the board approved his contract prior to receiving information on comparable salaries for other superintendents in the county. In August, after having obtained the comparability information, the board agreed to reconsider McCarty’s contract. In a November 2008 closed session meeting, the board increased McCarty’s base salary to $162,000, removed the two 3 percent increases and added two annual stipends of $1,500 for his master’s and doctorate degrees. After approving the amended contract, the board reported the changes in open session. According to Brown Act policies and procedures, the board should have agreed on the amended contract and reported the recommended changes in open session where the public would have had opportunities to comment before approval of the changes. At the time, the board also failed to make the original contract available to the public for at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. On Tuesday, the board took corrective action by rescinding the November 2008 contract and holding a public hearing, during which numerous teachers stood before the board to express their anger and frustration. “I look at the school closures and the cuts you are making when this increase could pay for one employee,” said Leslie Knutty, a classified employee of the Eureka Union School District. “I don’t understand how this could happen in this district.” Former Eureka Union Teacher’s Association president and Cavitt Junior High teacher Shelly Davis said after receiving information about the increase from an anonymous source she confronted McCarty, who she said denied receiving an increase. “What I want to know is how you can justify a raise after 5 months, especially in the economic times we’ve had,” Davis said. “Every department has been asked to make cuts, the community has been asked to give more while our leader has asked for and received more.” Davis and several others took the podium to say they had lost trust in the board that has claimed to be committed to transparency and building trust. “There was nothing done in secret or with malicious intentions,” said former board president Jerri Davis. “Upon receiving the information regarding other superintendent’s salaries we did the right thing to compensate (McCarty) fairly.” Dangberg also admitted to feeling comfortable with McCarty’s compensation and said the contract was fair. “I’ve been a teacher in the district for 31 years,” said Ed Seaman, Cavitt Junior High teacher. “If you’re going to open his contract then why don’t you open all the Eureka Union Teacher Association contracts for the raise we all deserve.” Eureka Union Teachers Association president Pam Ori also spoke during public comment to question why teachers were not worthy of a raise and the timing of McCarty’s salary increase. “Your actions don’t inspire trust in your community or colleagues,” Ori said. “Without trust the battle for excellence in education will be uphill.” After public comment on the matter was closed, the board approved McCarty’s amended contract 4-0. Trustee Debbie Holt was absent from the meeting.