A Davenport School Board member whose employer is buying Lincoln School removed herself from the vote, but she didn’t step out of related meetings, records show.
Vice President Linda Hayes abstained from the Davenport School Board vote to approve her employer’s purchase of the former Lincoln School property, but she was in attendance during all closed-door meetings, according to board minutes.
The board voted to put the property on the market in August 2017, and members have since met in closed meetings eight times to discuss the possible sale or purchase of property. The Quad-City Times has been unable to confirm the number of meetings at which Lincoln School was discussed because district officials have declined to provide full meeting minutes, even though the board has approved the school sale. The buyer is a nonprofit tied to the local church where Hayes works as the secretary.
Given that partial minutes indicate she was present for all eight closed meetings, it would follow that she was present during discussions about Lincoln.
If Hayes had left any of the meetings at any point, Board Secretary Mary Correthers said, the minutes would have reflected as much.
A representative from the Iowa Association of School Boards was not immediately available to comment on any ethical concerns.
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Hayes abstained from the final vote on the sale of Lincoln School at the July 22 board meeting. However, she first made the motion for the board to approve the offer of $30,000, which was approved. She also spoke favorably about plans by the nonprofit group, Together Making a Better Community, which is operated by her employer, Third Missionary Baptist in Davenport.
Together shares an address with the church, and Pastor Rogers Kirk is listed on documents filed with the IRS and Iowa Secretary of State.
Hayes did not respond to a phone message Tuesday, nor to any requests for comment since the July 22 vote.
The district’s refusal to release minutes from closed-door sessions is within their rights said Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He added, though, that with the contract, buyer and purchase price already made public, he saw no reason why the district would decline to make the minutes available. School officials have said they will keep a lid on the meeting details until the parties have closed on the property.
Correthers responded via email Wednesday to say the minutes and audio would be made available when the transaction is completed and said the Times would receive an update on the estimated closing date. Previously, Director of Operations Mike Maloney estimated closing would be scheduled for the end of October.
The Times objected to the district’s decision to withhold records from the meetings, arguing the negotiations that closed meetings are intended to protect have concluded. The district stood by its refusal.
Board President Ralph Johanson has not replied to requests for comment regarding his role in the decision to delay the release of closed-meeting minutes.