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PHM Board Pres. breaks the law — Silences parental criticism to maintain leadership position

PHM School Board
PHM Board of School Trustees President, Chris Riley, addresses the public at its meeting on August 8th, 2022.

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — At the first school board meeting of the year on Monday, Penn Harris Madison School Board President Chris Riley took it upon himself to break Indiana law in an apparent attempt to maintain his leadership position. Votes were held at the meeting regarding who would be put into or maintain leadership positions, such as President of the board. Multiple parents had signed up to speak and criticize Riley’s leadership. However, Riley went against state law and held the votes without first allowing any public comment. You can see in the video below, Riley moves onto the agenda item prior to having public comment.

Immediately after the vote, Riley calls up a parent who had signed up to speak on the leadership votes. He apologizes for not calling them up prior to the vote and instead gave him extended time to speak. This defeats the purpose of the public comment, which is used to give board members information PRIOR to a vote, not after.

“I extend my sincerest apology… so… I will make it up to you by allowing you to speak on both topics (you signed up to speak about). Riley stated.

While Riley apologized to the first parent, he did not extend that apology to the others.

“I was also going to speak on the recommendation for a board president, but since we got bypassed… I would have recommended Jim Garrett.” One parent stated.

“So, my speech was meant to be read before the vote.” Another parent said. “But, that didn’t happen. You’re not supposed to screw these things up on the first day.”

In all, there were 4 parents who were signed up to speak regarding the leadership vote. All of them are well known by Riley to be critical of him. None of them were allowed to speak prior to the agenda item.

According to IC 5-14-1.5-3, “the taking of oral public comment on a topic must occur before the governing body takes final action on the topic. The governing body may set a limit on the total amount of time for receiving oral public comment on a topic.”

CONTINUING TREND

PHM has a history of breaking open door laws. In March of 2022, RNM published a story regarding a scathing report by the State of Indiana, condemning the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation for blatantly breaking public records laws after a formal complaint from a parent and a subsequent investigation by Indiana’s Public Access Counselor (PAC), who oversees the state’s public records laws.

In a 9 page report by the PAC, the state lays out the complaint, Indiana’s laws and the violations committed by PHM Schools. You can read all about that case here.

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