Recall effort launched against Benton Harbor school board members

Benton Harbor, Mich. A school board meeting with not much on the agenda quickly turned heated Tuesday night, after a local activist announced his effort to recall several board members.

Rev. Edward Pinkney wants to recall President Martha Momany and trustees Willie Lark and Lue Buchana for “violating the public trust.”

“Right now the schools is like a drunk driver driving a school bus with no license,” Pinkney said while speaking out at the board meeting. “You know it's about to be an accident.”

Pinkney’s recall effort comes after the board failed to appoint a seventh member by an Aug. 31 deadline. They interviewed several candidates and ranked them based on a points system. The highest-ranking candidate was then nominated for the position, but wasn’t appointed because of a 3-3 vote.

Now, the decision will be up to the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency.

“This board didn’t do their job,” said Treasurer Joseph Taylor. “And, they stalemated by not calling a special meeting after the three-to-three tie in order to get that appointment seat before the 30 days were over.”

Taylor says he plans to call for a vote of no confidence for Momany at the school board’s next meeting because of her failure to get the board to act on the issue before the deadline. He’s also considering taking the matter to court.

“There will be a civil suit filed,” Taylor said. “Doesn't matter what Berrien RESA says. If they don't choose the right person, they'll be in court, as well. As well as this board. Nobody's getting away.”

But, Momany says the school board didn’t violate any rules or laws by not approving the highest-ranking applicant for the vacancy. After the incident, she consulted an attorney about the board’s vote.

“We did get a written opinion from a legal firm saying yes, you nominate the person with the highest points, but that does not obligate anyone to vote yes to put them in,” she said.

Berrien RESA will hold a special meeting Sept. 16 to appoint a new board member.

In the meantime, Pinkney will continue pursuing a recall of Lark, Buchana and Momany. But, it’s one some aren’t sure is in the best interest of the school district.

“Those recalls is costing our children $9,000 plus,” Lark said. “I wonder if the person making those recalls considered they were taking money from this district that we could use for our children."

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