Two unsuccessful attempts to get the superintendent’s recommendation approved means that who will lead the Hamburg School District’s athletic program next year is still in question.
In both instances, football coach Cecil Ray Cossey was the nominee in question.
The first attempt to get the board’s approval was during the school board’s end-of-year personnel meeting on May 25. After Superintendent Tracy Streeter recommended Cossey, when President Jim Wells asked for a motion to approve Streeter’s nomination, he received a motion but no board member seconded it, which meant the motion died on the table.
The second attempt, which happened at a special-called meeting later in the week, came again with a simple nomination from Streeter, “I recommend Cecil Ray Cossey as athletic director for the 21-22 school year.”
In that instance, after the motion was offered Wells himself gave the second to take the matter to a vote. Wells, James Hartshorn and Shawn Carpenter voted for the motion, while Maggie Ware, Suzanne Singleton and Debbie Jackson voted against it. Shawn Hickman had recused herself from voting, citing a family connection with Cossey.
Under Roberts’ Rules of Order, which the board uses to conduct its meetings, a tie vote automatically fails.
During that meeting, however, just what is allowed under Roberts’ Rules became its own source of contention. The board members did not discuss Cossey or his record publicly — instead retiring to executive session to do so, as is allowed when discussing personnel — but instead discussed procedural matters in an at-times heated manner.
After the second vote, Jackson said that if the board is operating using Roberts’ Rules, then Wells should not have been allowed to offer a second while presiding over the meeting.
Wells countered by saying that the board always used Roberts’ Rules, but in the case of the HSD board president the board has a policy, No. 1.3, that allows the presiding officer to do so.
“Rule No. 1.3 in our handbook states that I have the same rights as a board member to make a motion, to second a motion and I have a vote just like y’all do,” Wells said. “It says the president or presiding officer is a member just like you guys. If I don’t even answer, it is a ‘no’ (vote).”
Jackson contended that if Wells was going to second a motion he should have stepped aside and let someone else lead the meeting. When Wells said the matter would have gone to a vote at the first meeting if he had known he had the ability to help bring a matter to a vote, Ware responded with incredulity, “You called a second meeting tonight just so you could second it?”
After a few more moments discussion, Ware held the ground that Jackson had staked out, saying, “With all due respect, you can’t second and sit in the chair; you would have to relinquish the gavel,” before noting, however, that since the vote had failed anyway, “It don’t make no difference, let’s let it drop dead.”
Wells answered by saying, “We can get a policy book and look it up.”
Jackson stepped back into the conversation, saying that she did not have all night and that the board was going into executive session. The discussion stopped there as the board left the public part of the meeting to enter into the session.
The question of whether or not a presiding officer can vote or offer motions or seconds is apparently so common that it is the No. 1 question on the Roberts Rules of Order’s official Website’s frequently asked questions page at robertsrules.com/frequently-asked-questions. Whether or not the HSD’s policy book prevails, the Roberts’ Rules answer is ultimately subject to interpretation of whether or not the seven-member Hamburg board is considered “small” or “large.”
“If the president is a member of the voting body, he or she has exactly the same rights and privileges as all other members have, including the right to make motions, to speak in debate, and to vote on all questions,” the answer reads. “So, in meetings of a small board (where there are not more than about a dozen board members present), and in meetings of a committee, the presiding officer may exercise these rights and privileges as fully as any other member. However, the impartiality required of the presiding officer of any other type of assembly (especially a large one) precludes exercising the rights to make motions or speak in debate while presiding, and also requires refraining from voting except (i) when the vote is by ballot, or (ii) whenever his or her vote will affect the result.”
For his part, in a public statement made on social media, Cossey said on May 26 that his soul felt crushed. The next day, however, before the second meeting had happened, he followed up by saying he received more than 400 phone calls and text messages of encouragement and had seen an outpouring of support on social media from former players, parents and community members.
“I believe the community has spoken as to what you believe should be done for the athletic director position,” Cossey wrote. “Thank you again for that love and support. As a hometown guy, that means the world to me. Having said that, I respectfully ask that instead of holding a public rally tonight at the square on my behalf, you focus that support and energy on contacting your school board representative and let them know how the constituents that elected them feel and why. Talk to your neighbors and your family about why you feel I am best for this position. Use that energy. Show your support. Let’s come together and unite on this. I have been recommended by the superintendent, recommended by the current athletic director, and have the endorsement of nearly all the current coaches.
“I love this place and these kids with all my heart. I hope and pray the board will be able to meet again and vote on this soon. Thank you again for your support. I will forever be grateful. Go Lions!”