Will a metaphorical mace be enough to bring peace to the Farmington School Board?
Board member Craig Davis described as a baseball bat the board's decision to censure member Tim Burke, disavow his actions and forward information about his behavior to the Dakota County Attorney's office for possible criminal charges. Board members hope the action will help Burke realize he's been going about his duties as a board member in the wrong way.
Maybe it will. The decision should at least lay down some clear guidelines about what the board considers appropriate behavior. And, assuming the report given is accurate, it seems Burke did step over the line to one degree or another.
Burke said he will probably let the matter lie if there are no criminal charges forthcoming, but he stopped short of proclaiming himself a changed man. Asked directly if he planned to change his approach, Burke said only that the report given Monday was not a fair representation of what happened.
Given that report, though, it's hard to argue with the board's decision. The censure, a slap on the wrist letting Burke know he's misbehaved, was a predictable outcome. The disavowal, essentially board members distancing themselves from Burke's past and future actions and leaving him to fend for himself if things go bad, is the board protecting itself.
The decision to pass the information along to the county attorney is the most serious of the actions, and it's the one that drew the most discussion. Board member Julie McKnight said she didn't want to be the board that called in the county attorney.
That's understandable. It's hard to make a case that the board should not report activity it believes to be illegal -- it would set a bad example, as some board members pointed out -- but we can also imagine board members feeling a little bit like what a kindergarten teacher might call a tattle tale. It also feels a little bit like passing the buck to let someone else to make the more difficult -- and likely more costly -- decisions.
Board members said from the beginning they hoped this process would lead to a more harmonious relationship at the board table and in the district. That might happen, but there is more to be figured out first.