Nevada County Board of Education denies spending motion
The Nevada County Board of Education denied a motion Wednesday that would have required Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen to give monthly reports to the board on her travel expenditures.
“When this board decided to vote on whether or not it was necessary for us to see monthly statements, I voted no because I don’t believe it’s the board’s responsibility to micromanage the county spending,” trustee Bob Altieri said.
“There was so much money not spent in the travel account that I didn’t think it was necessary to spend any more staff time in going through to present it to the budget committee.”
The motion, which was proposed by board member Jack Meeks, was voted down on a 3-2 vote. Board members Marianne Slade-Troutman and Meeks voted for the motion, while trustees Altieri, Tracy Lapierre and board president Trevor Michael voted against it.
“These questions are not always popular, but they are in compliance with what our roles are on this board,” Slade-Troutman said.
“I don’t think it was unreasonable for us to ask for this, and I’m sorry if there are some of you who don’t agree, but I think it’s part of our role here. I don’t see anything wrong with asking questions. I don’t see anything wrong with sticking our noses into affairs that are our affairs.”
In May, Slade-Troutman filed a request with the Superintendent of Schools office asking for an itemized list of Hermansen’s county credit card expenditures.
According to Slade-Troutman, the county office responded in writing, stating that they would fulfill her request by June 27, but sent a subsequent letter saying that her request would not be filled till July.
Recently, though, Slade-Troutman said she received a packet of all of the county’s superintendent of Schools’ credit card records, as opposed to just Hermansen’s.
“There’s a lot for us to look at, and it’s going to take a while. Wouldn’t it just be simple to call the credit card company and issue a record of all this in an e-mail?” Slade-Troutman said.
“We shouldn’t need permission; we are supposed to be able to be helped by the county office. They should help us and assist us.”
Hermansen, though, said Wednesday that she hasn’t provided credit card expenditures to the board recently because she was asked not to.
“It was a public records request, so we provided it,” Hermansen said.
“In the past, I provided monthly statements to the board and then the board said it wasn’t really necessary, and I believe they actually took action on that, but for about two years I did provide monthly credit card bills to the board.”
Hermansen provided documents dating back to September 2012 through December 2013 that show she had previously provided her expense reports, which were signed by then board president Slade-Troutman.
In proposing Wednesday’s motion, Meeks spoke with a skeptical eye toward trips Hermansen has made for educational purposes.
“Five years, and she has never reported on any convention or weekend conference, has never produced a report on educational conferences. Something’s been going on in these weekends,” Meeks said.
“What did these conferences discuss? What did they decide? What is it that was important to the children in the schools, if anything?”
In his motion, Meeks requested that Hermansen give “timely reports, in writing of the name, place, dates and issues of the topics and conclusions of every convention, conference, retreat, attended by the superintendent and deputy administrators.”
Slade-Troutman stated that it is important for elected officials and superintendents anywhere to be held to this standard, and not just Hermansen.
“Oh really, now — has this ever been done in the history of the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools?” Lapierre asked Slade-Troutman.
“Where are the reports of the prior superintendents that they gave with everything Jack’s asking for? I don’t care if (Hermansen) spends 10 cents on a pencil, Jack is asking for dates, names, times, places and exactly what’s happened at every event she attends.”
Altieri referred to the motion as “a witch hunt” and pointed out that in recent years, the county has spent less than budgeted and that there was no reason to suspect any issues with spending.
Penn Valley resident Jan Collins, though, said that board members should fulfill the trust voters have given them by being transparent with the budget and its expenditures.
“I think it is the moral obligation of elected officials to provide the public with accurate, clear information,” Collins said.
“Every district handles a lot of money through their constituency. We trust that our boards are doing that.”
Clarification: A previous version of this story said that Slade-Troutman added that Hermansen provide a monthly expense report to Meeks’ motion. The official motion, though, did not ask for that.
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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