by Bob Geary
[Update: Now that I'm home and drinking a beer, one final, summary post. For more than two hours, the school board majority held out for John Tedesco to be elected vice chair and Ron Margiotta's heir apparent as chair. The majority, that is, minus Debra Goldman. Through 55 ballots, Republican Goldman refused to vote with her Republican allies — Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and Margiotta — for fellow Republican Tedesco. But Goldman also refused to reach across the aisle and cast her vote for Keith Sutton. At the end, as much as Goldman didn't want to help with Tedesco's elevation, she proved even less willing to break with her Republican mates. After 56 ballots, the leadership of the school board is in Margiotta's and Tedesco's hands.]
This was post No. 4 —
I'll begin again, for the 4th time, when our school board returns. However, as near as I can determine, the code of conduct for live-bloggers does not require me to remain past the three-hour mark when there is so little at stake. Not to say being vice chair of the school board is so little. No, it's less than little.
There's been some byplay during the recess that maybe the vice chair becomes acting chair when Margiotta's term as chairman ends, as it will, in December. But no. According to Ann Majestic, the board attorney, the vice chair does not move up in that circumstance. Margiotta's term will end, and it would require six votes (a two-thirds vote) to waive policy and keep him in office. But if that doesn't happen, the post of chair would be vacant and a new election would be held to fill it.
Now, they're back from their recess. Their second recess.
51st ballot: Sorry, we all yakked and missed the announcement.
52nd ballot: Sutton 4, Tedesco 3, Goldman 1. Didn't miss anything, obviously.
Goldman's not smiling any more.
53rd ballot: Same as 52.
It's after 8 p.m. I give this 30 more minutes.
54th: Same as 53.
Crowd now beginning to notice how many school officials, guards — 25, at least — who are cooling their heels, not counting those guarding the doors and the parking lot. How much are they costing the taxpayers?
55th ballot: Same as 54. McLaurin asks whether there could be joint vice chairs. Majestic says no.
Long pause. Now Goldman says she's changing her vote because '56 is the year her parents were married. The vote on the 56th ballot is 4 Sutton, 4 Tedesco. Margiotta breaks the tie, and by a 5-4 vote, Tedesco becomes vice chair.
Goldman and Tedesco hug and the N&O's photographer is all over it with his motordrive. Film at 11. Wait. More hugs.
And begin their 6 p.m. meeting.
And this was post No. 3 —
OK, I'm starting over — at 7:02. It's been one hour and 30 minutes since we began and the school board cannot choose a vice chair ... that's right, a vice chair ... because John Tedesco wants it and Debra Goldman wants it and neither will budge, nor will they get behind someone else.
So, 34th ballot is 4 for Keith Sutton, 3 for John Tedesco, 1 for Debra Goldman. Same as the last five ballots.
Ron Margiotta was re-elected chair on a 5-4 vote. He cast the tie-breaking vote in his own favor, which he was able to do because there was a tie vote at 4-4.
But for an hour-plus, there's been a 4-3-1 deadlock, with 4 for Keith Sutton (from the Minority Four), and a shifting vote otherwise ... but never rising to 4 on the other side for either Goldman or Tedesco. It's clear, JT ain't voting for DG, and DG ain't voting for JT.
35th ballot: Same as 34. 36th ballot: Same as 35. 4 for Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 for Goldman.
37th ballot: Same as 36, and 35, and for that matter, all the way back to the 27th ballot.
Quiet as a funeral in here, except that Tedesco and Goldman are yukking at each other.
38th ballot: Same 4-3-1.
(I'm checking now on my responsibilities as a live-blogger. As this position has no importance whatsoever, do I have to stay here just because I started this? The bloggers association will have to rule.)
39th: 4-3, with the 1 now for Prickett. Start of a move? Goldman signals that she's willing to vote for someone besides herself.. As long as it isn't Tedesco.
40th: 4-3-1, the one shifts back to Goldman.
A dozen school officials, including Tony Tata, are here and having their time wasted by this exercise. There is, after all, an actual school board meeting to conduct once the vice chair vote is settled. But if I understand correctly, the business of the reorganization meeting must be concluded before the regular board meeting can begin.
41st ballot: 4 Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 for Malone.
42nd: 4 Sutton, 2 Tedesco, 1 Malone, 1 Goldman.
43rd: Same as 40 ... 44th: Same ... 45th: Same ...
Talk about a dysfunctional board. Not only is there no movement, there's no discussion ... nobody even offers a thought about how to break this deadlock.
46th ballot: Same as 45. It's going on 7:30 — two hours at this. :(
47th: Same as 46. 48th: 4 Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 Malone.
Not to mention the 8 journalists whose time is being wasted. Oh, the humanity.
49th: 4-3-1, back to Goldman.
50th: 4 Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 Prickett.
Margiotta calls another "brief recess." The audience is restive — this was funny, but now, not so much.
Earlier, post No. 2 —
(For those not scoring at home, it's been an hour-plus and we are still deadlocked on the crucial issue of, uh, vice chair. I am live-blogging, which seemed like a good idea when I started — at 5:30. Tedesco won't vote for Goldman, and the feeling is mutual. But why don't they both get over it and get behind Prickett or Malone — which would let Margiotta break a 4-4 tie between one of those two and Keith Sutton, who gets 4 votes every time. Unbelievable.)
And this is how it began, post No. 1 — :
Anne McLaurin nominates Kevin Hill for chairman. Deborah Prickett nominates Ron Margiotta. Drum roll, please. It's a paper ballot — secret? They give their ballots to Ann Majestic, the board attorney. 5-4, Margiotta wins.
"Absolute power is short," he laughs.
Vice chair? Morrison nominates Keith Sutton. Kevin Hill nominates Debra Goldman. Prickett nominates John Tedesco.
Whoa. Is the majority reading Debra Goldman out of the leadership? (With Hill rising to her defense?)
The vote is 4-3-1, Sutton, Tedesco, Goldman. Without a tie, Margiotta doesn't get a vote.
So another ballot is needed. Now it's 3-3-2, Sutton, Tedesco and Goldman.
Majestic says she was asked a lot of questions before the voting. "Many," Margiotta says.
One was, can you add to the nominations? No, she says, but you can write in anyone who's eligible.
Third ballot: 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedesco, 1 for Goldman, 1 for Malone.
Fourth: Still deadlocked. Fifth: Ditto.
Still 1 for Malone, 1 for Goldman, 2 for Tedesco, 4 for Sutton, says Majestic.
(OK, this is fun, but I can't tweet and blog at the same time while also chewing gum. Especially with Majestic misstating the vote and correcting herself every other time.)
Sixth ballot: Same result, she says. (Good. Saves time in the reading.)
There's a pause. Since Hill nominated Goldman, is he still voting for her? Apparently not, as Sutton is up to 4 votes. Meanwhile, the Majority Five are split among Tedesco (2), Goldman (1) and Malone (1). Remember, Margiotta still can't vote.
Seventh ballot: The same.
Margiotta: Anyone have a suggestion?
I have a suggestion: The minority 4 could make a deal. But maybe they tried that already — anyway, who could they back?
Eighth ballot: 4 for Sutton, 1 each for Goldman, Tedesco, Malone and Prickett.
"We can go all night long," Margiotta says.
Ninth ballot: Same result.
Tenth ballot: 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedsco, Goldman and Malone 1 each.
Margiotta: Does everyone realize this job ends in December?
Majestic: No. Your term ends in December, she tells Margiotta, unless it's extended by [correcting this from earlier] a policy change, which would require a two-thirds vote. But the vice chair serves for two years. (Margiotta ousted Hill in mid-term after the 2009 elections, so he's on a different timetable.)
11th ballot: 4 for Sutton, 1 for Malone, 1 for Goldman, 1 for Carolyn Morrison, 1 for Tedesco.
McLaurin laughs, I'm the only one who hasn't gotten a vote.
12th ballot: 4 for Sutton, 1 each for the same four others.
Crowd behind me (it's actually Yevonne Brannon) is calling for Tedesco to back Sutton and get it over with.
13th: 4 for Sutton, four others are split — but one of them is for McLaurin, who gasps with delight!
14th: 4 for Sutton, 1, 1, 1, 1. Does it really matter who gets 1?
15th: (Now Goldman is whispering in Margiotta's ear.) 4 for Sutton, 3 for Tedesco, 1 for Goldman. Back to where we started.
16th: (Will Goldman now vote for Tedesco? She's whispering to Margiotta again. The Minority 4 is holding firm.) 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedesco, 1 for Goldman, 1 for Malone.
Margiotta calls for a brief recess.
And they're back after 15 minutes.
17th ballot: 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedesco, 1 for Malone, 1 for Goldman.
Well, that didn't help.
18th: 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedesco, 1 Morrison, 1 for ??? (gotta pay attention)
19th: Majestic confused, announces 4 for Sutton is a majority. Nope, 4 for Sutton, 2 for Tedesco, 1 Malone, 1 Goldman. Still stuck.
20th: 4 for Sutton, 3 for Tedesco, 1 for Goldman.
Assuming that's Goldman voting for herself and not her old friend JT, if she switched to Tedesco, it would be 4-4 and Margiotta could break the tie.
21st: 4 Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 Morrison. (Morrison is not running for re-election and will be replaced in December. Ditto McLaurin.)
22nd: 4 for Sutton, 2 Tedesco, 1 for ?? 1 for Goldman.
(There's no discussion. Just go from one ballot to the next.
23rd: 4 Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 Morrison.
(Now Tedesco and Goldman are exchanging hand gestures; can't hear what they're saying.)
24th: 4 for Sutton, 3 Tedesco, 1 Sutton.
(Can we order pizza? a voice asks. I laugh out loud, which is not what you want to do in this ghost-quiet room. Sorry.)
25th: Same as 24.
26th: 4-3-1, the one is for Morrison.
Has it occurred to anyone that this could go on until someone dies —
27th: 4-3-1, the one switches back to Goldman.
As long as JT won't vote for Goldman, and Goldman won't vote for JT, the only out is a bye from the Majority Five, which would make Sutton a 4-3 winner ... or someone from the Majority Five switches to Sutton and he wins 5-3.
28th: Same as 27.
And we keep voting.
29th: Same as 28.
I'm going to shift and simply list the ballots unless something changes:
30th ballot ... 31st ... 32nd ... 33rd ...