It looks like Wake County school board member Debra Goldman may have filed a police complaint against school board vice chairman Keith Sutton following a heated exchange over the firing of Superintendent Tony Tata.
As noted in today's article, Goldman contacted a Cary police officer assigned to the school board meeting on Sept. 25 to lodge a complaint of communicating threats. The report shows the location where the threat was communicated was the school board offices and that the person who made the alleged threat was an "acquaintance."
While the report doesn't list the acquaintance's name and police won't say it either, the time listed on the report is 4 p.m. between the end of the recently completed closed session and the start of the open session vote on firing Tata.
The report also says the case was later closed and the "unfounded" box was checked under disposition status.
School board member Deborah Pricket said just before the end of the Sept. 25 closed session that Sutton got out of his seat, leaned over toward Goldman, clenched his fists and loudly said to her, ‘Shut the (expletive) up!” Prickett said Goldman was "really shocked" by the remark.
The expletive in question is the f-word.
The previous day during the closed session, Prickett said Sutton had told the GOP members that he and the Democratic members were “going to kick your asses.”
If you guys are wondering about Prickett discussing closed-session matters, she said she can do so because she's discussing the behavior of the board members and not the specific issues that were brought up.
On Wednesday, Sutton denied taking any threatening action toward Goldman or of making an unprovoked rejoinder. He questioned whether he was singled out as the only African-American male on the board.
“Don’t you think it would be awfully weird for someone to yell at someone to ‘shut up’ and it be completely unprovoked?” Sutton said. “If I am the only one that is singled out, but clearly through her comments and emails that others were engaged in similar behavior, does it not occur to you that this may be racial?”
Democratic board member Jim Martin said Wednesday no one was threatened.
“At no time during any of the board meetings was safety an issue for anyone,” Martin said. “So (during) the exchange between Sutton and Goldman, from my perspective, and I was there, safety was never an issue.”
If, as it likely seems, that Sutton was the person named by Goldman, he'd be the second board member after Chris Malone who Goldman previously implicated in a police complaint. Goldman didn't return calls Wednesday.
Emails between board members show that it got very tense during the closed-session discussions.
In a Sept. 30 email message to school board chairman Kevin Hill and copied to the full board, Prickett wrote:
"In the last two closed session board meetings, there have been multiple unprovoked, offensive, and threatening outbursts by Vice Chairman Keith Sutton. Several days have passed since the last incident and another closed session meeting approaches. As Chair, you have done nothing so far to address this situation and there have been no apologies issued. This is very concerning. What assurances can we have that Mr. Sutton's inappropriate behavior will not be an ongoing source of conflict?"
Later on Sept. 30, Martin responded to Prickett's email:
"With all due respect, Mr. Sutton was not the only member, nor the first member to issue an 'offensive and threatening outburst.' All Board members need to work at increased civility rather seeming to make an issue out of a non-issue as I believe this email from Mrs. Prickett does."
Goldman fires her response to Martin's email later on Sept. 30:
"A 'nonissue?' How degrading. I agree with Deborah. I would like to know what will be done to assure that this level of elevation is dealt with. She is not the only one that is uncomfortable with the concept of going into closed session until this is handled."
Hill responds on Oct. 1:
"I remember our last session where Mr. Sutton raised his voice. I also remember our last two closed sessions where another Board member rose to their feet raising his/her voice as loudly as Mr. Sutton. Even though our sessions have been heated and dealing with difficult issues, this does not make this type of behavior acceptable. I am asking all Board members to remember that we are professionals and that we must work together in a civil manner and the behaviors demonstrated by a few members reflects negatively on all members. This is my expectation .... It is up to all Board members to live up to this expectation. I consider this matter closed."
Prickett disagreed in a response on Oct. 2 that the matter was closed:
"You seem to be passing off Vice Chair's Sutton's offensive and threatening behavior as a common heated disagreement. It went beyond that. Also, you seem to be assigning the same culpability to Mr. Sutton's inappropriate outbursts as you are to the reaction that supported the person(s) to whom the comments/actions were directed. I hope your intention is not to just sweep these reoccurring and escalating incidences under the rug.
I do not consider this matter closed, and I an expecting an appropriate resolution."
Later that day, Goldman sent an email message saying "I concur."