The Hays-Lodge Pole school board’s chairman John Doney is suspended until criminal charges against him are settled.
Blaine County Commissioners held a hearing Monday to discuss what to do after County Attorney Don Ranstrom filed seven misdemeanor misconduct charges against Doney.
Doney did not attend the hearing.
The commissioners heard from a few of the dozen community members, parents and school staff who attended the hearing.
George Horse Capture Jr. was the only board member to attend the meeting.
No one spoke in favor of Doney.
Horse Capture said he was frustrated by how hard it is rein Doney in.
“Why does it seem like it takes a small act of Congress to do something while the prairie burns up? ” Horse Capture said. “This is not in law books. It's setting new precedents. Maybe we can find some way to change some state laws so it is easier. This stuff is going to become more and more common. ”
A few teachers said that they were speaking despite fears that doing so might cost them their jobs. They recounted threats of termination that Doney had made to them earlier in the year.
“We're going to decide today if our chairman, if we're going to listen to him come in and yell at us, ” school counselor Carletta Benson said. “I don't want him back, and my family doesn't either.
“Our kids hear enough yelling and screaming. They don't need someone coming in and yelling at them daily. ”
“He told me not to get comfortable because I won't be there much longer, ” said Gloria Parker, special education teacher.
“What you’re hearing is only the tip of the iceberg, ” Horse Capture said. “I've never seen anything like this, and I've seen a lot.
“We're talking about the chair, but that's not the only problem, by a long shot. Where's the rest of the board? I would think this is something they need to hear. But they choose not to participate. ”
The suspension will last until District Court Judge John McKeon hears and rules on the misconduct charges.
Doney and witnesses listed in the filed charges are scheduled to appear before Judge McKeon at 10 a. m. Monday.
Asbestos test closes school, board delays meeting
Three hours after the Blaine County Commission suspended the Hays-Lodge Pole school board Chair John Doney, the board was scheduled to have its regular November meeting. Without a board chair, or vice chair, or enough trustees present to hold a meeting, the session was postponed.
In the school parking lot at 6 p. m. Monday, trustee George Horse Capture Jr. and contested trustee Wes Main met with school clerk Daralyn Shambo, with special education teacher Gloria Parker watching.
The three decided to meet again Wednesday evening in a short special meeting, or emergency meeting, to appoint an interim chair, since Doney was suspended earlier Monday, and a vice chair, a position whose current vacancy makes it hard to move on during Doney’s suspension.
The meeting took place outside the front door, because the school is closed until asbestos test results are returned.
Mark Oliver, an environmental technician for Billings-based Northern Industrial Hygiene, was wrapping up those tests just prior to the meeting. He said that the results would probably be returned by 5 p. m. Wednesday.
The board of trustees hope to not only fill the two board leader positions, but deal with the results.
The board currently only has three of the five positions filled. Aside from Doney’s supsension, trustee Daryl Brocke has, according to Horse Capture, missed at least three board meetings in a row, leading to automatic removal.
Wes Main is considered a member of the board by Horse Capture and Blaine County Superintendent of Schools Lisa Stroh, but not by Doney, who has refused to seat Main until background checks and drug tests are completed.
Horse Capture and Main, representing two-thirds of the board, met Sunday night in an emergency meeting to close the school for the asbestos tests. Though the possible contamination would have come from a renovation from back in June, Horse Capture said he had only just heard about it possibly being an issue.
“Morally, spiritually, all them kind of things, as a school board member and as a community member, I had to act, ” Horse Capture said this morning. “The other things are more important, but also legally, there had to be action, as soon as I found out. Because I didn’t know. ”
Horse Capture said the board needs leadership, at the very least to take care of payroll and other financial or legal business, especially as winter sets in and the holidays approach.
“We need to get someone at the helm, so we’re not just wandering around wherever the wind blows, ” Horse Capture. “We need a captain. ”
Shambo said that, if the asbestos tests come back clean, she would come in to write up checks for the school staff.