Wake County school board members Deborah Prickett and Susan Evans have been engaged in a heated email exchange over how the vote went to lease an office building to use as the ninth-grade center for Panther Creek High.
Evans says the vote was not unanimous but Prickett says it was unanimous. The issue may hinge on whether you're talking about the vote in closed session or the one in open session at Tuesday's board meeting.
The board was briefed on the proposal during the work session.
During the regular meeting, the lease deal was discussed in closed session under the exemption that it involved acquisition of real estate.
Upon returning to open session, school board chairman Kevin Hill made a motion to acquire the office building. In the ensuing voice vote, you don't hear any no votes being said.
It's unclear though whether Evans said anything or was silent. But a non-vote/abstention is considered a yes vote.
It was pointed out that Hill left out the word lease in the motion. Hill called for a revote on the motion specifying they were acquiring it via a lease. Again, it appeared that only yes votes were said aloud. When there are no votes, Hill generally points them out for the record.
Now let's look at some of the emails that have been flying since the vote.
Prickett sent an email message Wednesday night to Cindy Sinkez, who is opposed to the use of the office building.
"Just so you know, after much discussion and weighing all of the available options—including mobile units on a plot of undeveloped land with no infrastructure versus an existing brick and mortar building-- the Board voted unanimously to go with the site at Pleasant Grove Church Road," Prickett writes in one part of the message.
Prickett's email was also sent to staff and other board members. This prompted an email response later that night that Evans sent to board members and staff.
"I must clarify that last night's decision was not unanimous," Evans writes. "I voted against it as did at least one other person, I believe. Please do NOT tell another parent that this was a unanimous decision.
Ms. Allen, can you please verify the vote on this from Tuesday nights meeting?"
Melissa Allen is the board secretary.
Evans also sent an email message that night to Sinkez that she copied to the board.
"I just wanted to say that Ms. Prickett's indication of a unanimous vote is inaccurate," Evans writes. "I have asked the Board secretary, Melissa Allen, to review the minutes and confirm the vote, but it was either 6 to 3 or 7 to 2. I am not certain whether Ms. Prickeet's memory is bad or if something else is going on here???"
Soon after, Prickett replied in an email message to staff and board members.
"I called Melissa today to get the results of the Board vote," Prickett writes. "She checked the information and told me the vote was unanimous in regards to the 9th grade center for Panther Creek."
Within minutes, Evans replied back to Prickett.
"I am sorry to hear the records are incorrect," Evans writes. "But I did not vote for it and I am pretty sure I was not the only one."
Sinkez jumped in with her own email Wednesday night to board and staff.
"I was informed personally by 2 board members that they voted no on this item," Sinkez writes. "I think that there needs to be review."
Prickett followed with a reply to Superintendent Tony Tata and to Allen.
"I'm thinking that the Board members are possibly confusing the closed session tally and final Board vote," Prickett writes. "At any rate, I appreciate Melissa's efforts to keep up with this information."
On Thursday evening, Prickett emailed a message to Sinkez that she also sent to board and staff.
"I wanted to give you an update about the voting details surrounding the 9th grade center," Prickett writes. "I spoke with Melissa Allen today, and she has ordered the WRAL video to review and reference this tape to the audio that we routinely use in gathering information for Board minutes. We should have more information in a few days."
The situation escalated on Saturday following news reports about the school board potentially reconsidering the lease. Prickett referenced Evans' interview Friday on WRAL in an email to board, staff and me.
"Here is a quote from Mrs. Evans which is posted on the WRAL website. I am requesting the official results of the Board table vote be given to the Board members, public, and media ASAP," Prickett writes. "It is important to relay accurate information since the topic about the 9th grade center is being requested for further discussion.
Prickett highlights the statement below from the WRAL online story:
"We had no time to do outside investigation, ask questions, investigate the site. We had no time to get input from the community," said school board member Susan Evans, who voted against the move.
Evans responded Saturday in an email to board and staff in which she blames WRAL for saying she voted no.
"Just to clarify...I am not quoted as saying that I voted against it," Evans writes. "That is something the reporter decided to say on her own that was disappointing to me as I did not specifially say that. I was very careful, based on the fact that the open session vote was still being clarified.
I suppose the reporter could assume I was not in favor, but in the interview I only discussed feeling like the Board had been rushed to make a decision without adequate time to perform due diligence. If you watch the interview you will see that I did not discuss the vote."
Prickett replied back Saturday night in an email that references Evans telling Sinkez on Wednesday she voted against the deal.
"You sent this to me in an email on Feb. 8th at 8:27 p.m. after I responded to Mrs. Sinkez that the vote was unanimous (based on the information that I had requested from Ms. Allen)," Prickett writes. "Your statement is contradictory. Even though you say you were waiting on the Board table vote clarification, you told me this below. I would think you would remember how you voted. It seems that the WRAL reporter is correct."
Prickett then pastes the text of the email from Evans to Sinkez.
Evans replied back in an email Sunday morning.
"I am not back pedaling on what my vote was," Evans writes. "My email last night to you was to say that I did not specifically say how I voted in the interview with WRAL and you were inferring that 'I was quoted as saying I voted against it on WRAL' and I am clarifying that I was not quoted as saying that.
So now you are the one talking with the media about votes, not me."
Prickett responded to Evans in an email that "The public has a right to know how the Board vote went. Accurate information is essential in building public trust."
After all this email messages, board member Chris Malone sent his own message on the subject Sunday afternoon.
"Can we please get off this back and forth," Malone writes.