Citizens expressed hope for more integrity from their school board members in the future, after two were recently indicted for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
On Monday, Carroll Independent School District’s board president Michelle Moore and vice president Todd Carlton were indicted by a grand jury in Tarrant County for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act last year. The TOMA requires when the minimum number of officials that, when assembled, is “legally competent to transact business” meets to discuss policy they oversee, the meeting must be held in public.
Texas Scorecard obtained a copy of Carlton’s indictment, which said he “knowingly” engaged “in at least one communication among a series of communications” with other board members last August. The topic of discussion? The controversial Cultural Competence Action Plan (CCAP), which would—among other things—create a system where students could report each other for “microaggressions” and would create an LGBTQ+ student focus group. The plan would require a startup cost to taxpayers of $425,000 and then a yearly cost of a quarter of a million dollars from 2021-2025—altogether close to $1.5 million.
The indictment says the incident occurred August 3, 2020, the same day the board voted to delay CCAP’s implementation after citizens expressed outrage. Citizens later said elements of the plan were still being implemented despite the vote, and it was later discovered the board had previously approved elements of the plan back in 2018.
Citizens fought against CCAP and were successful last December in requesting judges halt implementation and make the district turn over their communications regarding the plan.
“After multiple open records requests and the lawsuit, we discovered the violation of the TOMA,” citizen Tara Eddins told Texas Scorecard. “For something like the CCAP to take criminal behavior to try to get pushed through, I mean, I think that says it all.”
Others expressed their reaction to the indictments.
“This will only further the divide in our community. Carroll ISD already has a major trust issue between the administration and the parents, and now we have board members being indicted,” Carroll ISD parent Mitch Stacey told Texas Scorecard. “It’s certainly disheartening and downright angering that the leadership we have entrusted our children’s education to has been indicted. What kind of example is this to our kids?”
The very leadership they are under is working in secrecy and apparently breaking the law doing so. Our children, town, and taxpayers deserve better than this.
“I do feel bad that it’s come to this, but also I know that there are consequences for actions,” Stacey’s wife, Christy, added. “I feel like our kids are finally getting some justice.”
“I am deeply saddened by the growing divide in our community caused by multiple members of the school board,” said Ashley McCurry, another CISD parent. “CISD has prided itself on excellence and transparency. But in recent years, the board and administration have greatly failed our community.”
“Regardless of what ‘side’ you are on, we all value honesty and integrity in our leaders. When things are done in secret, there is always a reason, whether that be the inability to lead or something potentially criminal,” McCurry continued. “I am thankful these board members are being held accountable. My hope is this will send a strong message to future leaders: Deceptive and unlawful practices are not welcome in Southlake.”
Christy Stacey had a response to those who allege she and others like her are racist for opposing CCAP. “Just because we oppose one 34-page document doesn’t mean that we do not see that there is a problem … that we wouldn’t like to sit at the table and figure it out.”
“I do not like anything that gives someone the label of oppressor and being oppressed,” she continued. “It’s not biblical to me at all. And I think that’s what I have the most problem with … you’re labeling people, and you’re giving them a stigma.”
A press inquiry was sent to Superintendent Dr. Lane Ledbetter and Assistant Superintendent Julie Thannum, asking if district taxpayers are financing Moore’s and Carlton’s legal defense. No response was received before publication time.
Eddins summed up her feelings about the board, excluding the newly arrived Ledbetter from criticism.
“The rest of the board, including our two assistant superintendents, … [are a] complete embarrassment to our school, our school district, our town. They go against everything we stand for.”
Places 4 and 5 of the Carroll ISD Trustee Board are on the ballot for the May 1 election this year. Early voting runs from April 19-27.