The Columbus School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday had some pointed, feisty interactions during an hour-long debate over lawn service.
The ultimate result: No action was taken.
The high point of the debate: Board member Jason Spears accused fellow board member Currie Fisher of being a liar, which she requested be placed in the official minutes.
The debate came after CMSD Superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman requested the board reject all bids the district had received for 2015-2016 lawn care services throughout the district.
Spears motioned to not reject the lawn service bids. He was seconded by board member Glenn Lautzenhiser.
“I was contacted today by a couple of irate individuals,” Spears said. “They had already began work at different sites. Then, of course, they were called today and told that they were no longer going to mow those sites. So, what I would like to see is the bids that were submitted for lawn service.”
“I gave them to you guys,” Hickman said.
Board member Currie Fisher asked how people could be doing work for the district who were unauthorized by the board. The 2014-2015 contracted ended June 30.
Spears persisted with his request to see the physical bids the district received, not a spreadsheet of the bids Hickman presented the board.
When Hickman said he could look at the bid sheets later, Spears protested, demanding the bids be brought forth.
At that point, Fisher accused Spears of micromanaging Hickman and the district.
Hickman, though, presented the physical bids to board president Angela Verdell, who asked Spears if she could read them to him. Spears rejected that offer, saying he wanted to see for himself.
Each of the physical bids were identical to the spreadsheet Hickman presented the board.
Spears continued his motion to reject Hickman’s request to turn down all bids, saying the workers who contacted him had been misled. Hickman said no contract for lawn service had been issued and he had not authorized anyone to begin work.
However, Hickman, board attorney David Dunn and board members all agreed the people should be paid for what work had already been done.
Fisher asked Dunn if the board could be penalized by the state Ethics Commission for being pushed by outside influence. This began a back and forth between Fisher and Spears, during which Verdell had to call them to order multiple times.
“We have people doing work that they have not been awarded a contract to do,” Fisher said. “The bids have not been awarded. And yet, Mr. Spears is saying he got a call and now he wants to see all bids, because he questions the validity of the figures. This is what outside influence is doing, Mr. Spears.”
Spears continued to say that Hickman had cut out workers who previously maintained the lawns over a few dollars. Hickman said he just had been presented the bids and decided to reject them. Lautzenhiser and Spears said it was more fair to the workers to allow them to continue the job.
“I think if we’re going to apply fairness, it should be applied in an equitable manner,” Fisher said. “If I recall, the last time we got into fairness, that the very person who says we should be fair now, said, ‘Well, I can’t afford to be fair,’ didn’t want to pay for work done. If you’re going to be fair, be fair.”
“Well then tell the truth,” Spears said. “Don’t sit there and make up things just to prove your point. Tell the truth.”
“Are you calling me a liar?” Fisher asked.
“I absolutely am,” Spears said. “You’re talking about me, use my name.”
Fisher made a motion that Spears calling her a liar be added to the official minutes. Spears seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
At that point, Jones called for a 10-minute recess.
After the break, assistant superintendent Craig Shannon explained to the board that in 2013 the board had rejected all service bids as well and that he had been asked to get quotes from local businesses to maintain individual properties throughout the district.
“The board has not authorized these bids for three years,” Shannon said.
The confusion, Dunn said, came from the interchanging of “quotes” and “bids,” which are not interchangeable terms.
Dunn said bids are more official and must be brought before the board. As the figures brought before the board were in fact “quotes” and not “bids,” no action could be taken by the board.
“There’s no bids to accept,” Dunn said. “There’s really no action to be taken.”