School Board's sounds of silence

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By Jim Clark

First, it must be noted that Billy Morrison has not been convicted of anything. All we have are charges filed of lewdness and exposing himself at a rest room at Santa Fe College.

Still, since Morrison is a member of the Levy County School Board, the matter must be addressed, and in this vein the School Board failed miserably at its meeting on Tuesday.

Morrison, to his credit, stayed away from the meeting, leaving only an empty chair that was a glaring reminder of what had happened. His attendance would have been a distraction, especially in light of the fact that there were six fifth-graders there to perform a science project.

The board has no power to discipline a fellow elected official. But it can surely take steps to reassure the public that things would continue to run smoothly on the board, despite Morrison's legal problems. There could have been statements reminding the people of what we just said ... he's innocent until proven guilty. There could have been hope expressed that the charges would prove false, and that he could resume his duties. There could have been a call for everyone to step back and let the law take its course.

But none of that happened.

Board members didn't mention the case at all until the end of Tuesday's meeting, and then only after some prodding from the audience. Even then, there were no opinions or comments from the board.

The silence was deafening.

You also have to ask why the four board members each elected not to bring the matter up at all. One would think that at least one of the members would mention it during the time when members can raise issues. But the Sunshine Law forbids discussion by the board members away from the meeting about the issue, so you have to assume it was just coincidence that each one decided not to make it an issue at the meeting.

You would expect that someone on the board would have heard from Morrison, and could have conveyed that information to the board. But that didn't happen, either.

Unlike most boards and councils, the board doesn't take a roll call so the minutes can reflect who is at the meeting. If a roll call were taken, and Morrison didn't answer, it would have been a chance to make some of those comments.

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist emphasized that the governor can take no action against someone accused only of a misdemeanor. That law is hard to understand. In this case, because of the type of charges, you would think that suspension would be swift and stern, but the law evidently says that can't happen.

That's a law that needs to be changed. There need to be certain types of crimes listed that involve almost automatic suspension when an official is charged. If he is subsequently cleared, he can return, but there is no way someone accused of this type of crime should be allowed to serve on a School Board until the matter is cleared up.

Misdemeanor or felony, there shouldn't be a difference. It's the type of offense that should matter.

This case may still have a long way to go. It will be interesting to see how the School Board acts in the future.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.