Wake County school board member Debra Goldman, citing public information concerns, is objecting to board chairman Kevin Hill's request that Wake County schools administrators give advance budget briefings to small groups of board members.
Hill and former school board members Lori Millberg and Beverley Clark said that small-group meetings with Wake budget planners were standard in previous board incarnations. Goldman, who is running for the Republican nomination for state auditor, said late Sunday in an e-mail to Hill that the proposed meetings with Wake schools chief business officer David Neter would be inappropriate.
In an e-mail sent Sunday afternoon to school superintendent Tony Tata, Hill had asked that small groups of members meet with Neter to get information about the budget.
"As in the past, Board members will be able to make notes in the document, but leave the document with David (to be returned March 6)," Hill wrote to Tata. "And as in the past, Board members who sit with David will respect the fact that this information is embargoed until March 6."
Goldman, representing a Cary district, responded with an e-mail to Hill.
"I do not recall Board members EVER sitting privately with Mr. Neter and certainly do not recall provided information to be embargoed," she wrote. "We should be having these discussions as a Board, together, transparently and publicly! Why the secret meetings and information embargoes?
"It all just begs to ask one question... WHY would you want to hide this from the public?"
Goldman is one of several candidates for the Republican nomination for state auditor running in the May primary.
In an interview today, Hill said the board had not held such information sessions under Ron Margiotta, Hill's immediate predecessor as chairman. But it had been the practice in preceding years, he said.
"It was information sessions," Hill said. "It was before the budget was publicly presented.
"It was a few members at a time in really just an overview with the budget document."
Hill said he would not venture a guess as to why Goldman was concerned.
"She's had a concern about lots of kinds of meetings that have not had a quorum," he said.
Goldman and other Republican board members objected in December when new Democratic board members met separately with Michael Alves, the Massachusetts consultant who was hired to help put Wake County's new student assignment plan into effect.
Democrats said the meeting, which was not mentioned to Republican members ahead of time, was designed to acquaint new members with the concepts behind the new plan.
Former members Clark and Millberg said today that the information sessions held in past years allowed board members to get an early look at the budget, not a chance to make changes before the document was publicly presented.
Tata will present a $1 billion-plus budget proposal to the school board next month that will try to avoid laying off employees while dealing with the loss of state and federal funding.
Staff member T. Keung Hui contributed to this report.