The committee charged with finding an interim chief executive officer for the embattled Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans met twice over the last 24 hours to interview three candidates behind closed doors.
But they did so without the quorum that Louisiana’s open meeting law requires.
With only three of the six committee members present Tuesday night, the committee did not have a quorum, defined as a “simple majority” by state law.
Members Tim Gray, Erin Greenwald and Alysson Mills did not announce whether there was a quorum, and proceeded into an hour-long executive session to interview Ghislaine Bazir using Skype, an internet-based video conference.
When asked Wednesday morning by The Lens about the lack of quorum Tuesday, Gray, a recently appointed board member and lawyer, said he thought the reporter present might take note of that.
Gray said because the committee was not taking any official action they felt they could proceed with the interviews.
But when the reporter for The Lens countered that going into executive session constituted an official action, Gray agreed.
“Yeah, that’s a good point,” he said.
When the committee makes its official recommendation to the board, he said that would be done with a quorum. Gray also said he felt it was more important to carry out the interviews as planned rather than delay the process because the committee lacked a quorum.
The committee’s board-approved timeline aims to recommend an interim CEO by June 30.
“I think we’re going to have quorum today,” said Gray before Wednesday morning’s meeting started.
They did not.
Erin Greenwald, head of the committee, called six names Wednesday morning.
Again, only three members were present.
Again, the committee did not announce whether there was a quorum.
And again, they entered into executive session.
The committee interviewed Joseph Daschbach first. He was present at the meeting and went into executive session with committee members. Daschbach left the closed session a little more than an hour later.
The committee remained behind closed doors for an additional 45 minutes interviewing candidate Marina Schoen by Skype.
During the executive session, parent Paula Griffin said she was less concerned about the lack of a quorum. “We have a desperate need for an interim CEO.”
Parent Amy George-Hirons said she somewhat agreed. “I don’t feel like there’s ill intent.”
Griffin said she hoped Carol Asher and Kelly McClure — the only two members of the search committee who are not members of Lycée’s full governing board — would remain involved in the search. Asher and McClure, two of the original committee members, were both absent Wednesday.
Members returned to the cafeteria at about 10:15 a.m. to close out the session publicly.
“We’re really excited about the possibilities,” said Greenwald regarding the candidates.
With a motion to adjourn on the table, Griffin asked the committee about the lack of quorum, reiterating that she wasn’t overly concerned.
“We have talked about that and I think [Lens reporter] Marta [Jewson] asked a very fair question,” said Gray. “We recognize that a lot of problems at this school over the past year are because of a lack of transparency.”
“It’s important that you guys trust us,” said Gray, “But we’re balancing that with 340 kids who are going to be walking through that door the first week of August. If I gotta be the bad guy that voted to go into executive session without a quorum, then you know, so be it.”
“But I can promise you this is not what we are going to do moving forward,” said Gray.
Greenwald reiterated Gray’s sentiments from earlier in the day.
“We certainly won’t make any action, we won’t take any action without having a quorum present,” Greenwald. “This was simply in the interest of keeping the process moving forward because we’re running out of time.”
But, under Louisiana law, the board committee did take action by recessing into executive session.
“I did notice and I will always notice stuff like that,” Griffin said regarding the quorum issue.
“I do appreciate a lot that although you recognized that issue that you are being understanding of it,” Mills said to Griffin.
The committee is scheduled to interview candidate Keith Bartlett Thursday at 4:30 p.m.