By Harold C. Ford
“Here we go again.” – Joyce Ellis-McNeal after being removed as Flint Board of Education president, Aug. 17
The tumultuous nature of the Flint Board of Education (FBOE) was, once again, on full display at the panel’s 3.5-hour Aug. 17 meeting as Joyce Ellis-McNeal, president, and Laura MacIntyre, treasurer, were suddenly tossed from their positions.
Voting to unseat both McNeal and MacIntyre were: Carol McIntosh, vice president; Chris Del Morone, assistant secretary/treasurer; Allen Gilbert, trustee; and Danielle Green, trustee.
Linda Boose joined with Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre to oppose both motions for removal.
The motion to remove Ellis-McNeal was made by Gilbert; the motion to remove MacIntyre was made by McIntosh. Seconding motions were made by McIntosh and Green, respectively.
Green was attending her first meeting after a five-month hiatus. During discussion, Green told Ellis-McNeal she (Ellis-McNeal) was “intellectually, morally, ethically not qualified” to hold the board’s president position. “I’m not the only one thinking it.”
“We’re just acting out in a way that’s unprofessional,” Ellis-McNeal responded. She characterized both ousters as “retaliation.”
McIntosh ascended to the presidency upon removal of Ellis-McNeal. The president’s gavel was immediately passed from Ellis-McNeal to McIntosh who presided over the short remainder of the meeting.
Del Morone was chosen to fill the vice president’s position, vacated by the ascension of McIntosh to the presidency, with votes from Gilbert, Green, McIntosh, Del Morone, and Boose.
Green received votes from Gilbert, McIntosh, Del Morone, and Green to become treasurer, replacing MacIntyre.
“Here we going again,” McNeal said in response to the sudden change of FBOE leadership. In the past 21 months, since Dec. 2020, the gavel of the Flint board’s presidency has been passed four times from McIntosh, to Green, to Ellis-McNeal, and McIntosh once more.
Difficult tenures of Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre
Ellis-McNeal had been elevated to the FBOE’s top position upon Green’s ouster following Green’s alleged assault on MacIntyre in March. Ellis-McNeal’s perceived bumbling leadership style – frequently requiring redirection by other members of the board and central administration staff present at public meetings. – featured rambling soliloquies that seemed to stray. Under Ellis-McNeal, FBOE meetings routinely lasted three to five hours and longer.
[Readers, listeners, viewers can witness for themselves the parliamentary untidiness of FBOE meetings for the past five months by watching videos of those meetings made available on YouTube. Print accounts have also been provided in recent print issues and online posts of East Village Magazine (EVM).]
MacIntyre’s 20-month tenure on the Flint panel has featured multiple incidents of conflict with other members of the administrative and elected leadership teams:
- FBOE veterans Vera Perry and Diana Wright – who had collectively served on the board for more than 24 years – suddenly resigned from the FBOE on Sept. 7, 2021. Neither provided a full-blown explanation for suddenly stepping down. Wright had been repeatedly rebuffed in her attempts to get the C.S. Mott Foundation’s proposal to rebuild or renovate all of Flint’s school buildings on the board’s agenda; the most vocal and strident opposition came from MacIntyre. In a statement to EVM, Perry said only that her services were “no longer used.” Both Wright and Perry had had very public spats with MacIntyre during the latter’s first six months on the panel. During one heated exchange, Perry hurled the epithet “heifer” in the direction of MacIntyre.
- MacIntyre also verbally sparred with Ellis-McNeal in her first months on the FBOE. During one disagreement, then-board President McIntosh banged her gavel repeatedly and shouted “Order, order, order, order! Hey, hey, hey, hey!” in an attempt to end the verbal melee between the two.
- In Aug. 2021, then-Superintendent Anita Steward and Ayunna Dompreh, then-executive director of human resources, filed “hostile work environment’ charges against MacIntyre. Subsequently, MacIntyre’s interactions with the two central administrators were restricted, according to a declaration by then-board president McIntosh. Soon thereafter, both Steward and Dompreh exited the district.
- A March 24 confrontation between MacIntyre and then-FBOE President Green during a committee meeting culminated in an alleged assault by Green upon MacIntyre. Green was quickly removed from her position as president by a 5-0 vote of board members. Subsequently, lawsuits by both persons were filed. Presumably, a personal protection order (PPO) requested by MacIntyre had barred Green from attending board meetings the past five months.
- More recently, McIntosh was escorted from the board’s July 20 meeting by a security officer following an intense exchange of angry words with MacIntyre.
Perry, Wright, Ellis-McNeal, Steward, Dompreh, Green, and McIntosh are all African American women. That may help explain why veiled and explicit charges of racism have increasingly been launched in the direction of MacIntyre by members of the public and other board members.
“As you can see, you’ve got your four votes,” Ellis-McNeal concluded in response to an apparent new majority bloc of four votes on the seven-person panel. Relative newcomers Del Morone and Gilbert joined with the most senior of the board’s members, Green and McIntosh, to remove Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre from their positions and pass other measures.
Green had returned to her first meeting after a five-month absence following her confrontation with MacIntyre that led to her removal as president. It was believed that a successful PPO request by MacIntyre was the reason for Green’s absence.
After the Aug. 17 meeting, Green told EVM that Herman Marable, 67th District Court judge, had sent a memo to Ellis-McNeal explaining that it was not his intent to bar Green from her duties as a public official. Green claimed that McNeal had not disclosed Marable’s memo. Earlier in the meeting, Green referenced “documents the president has been trying to hide from us.”
McIntosh reappeared at July’s FBOE meeting after a self-imposed hiatus of several months. During heated exchanges with MacIntyre, McIntosh declared, “I haven’t been coming to meetings because I don’t wanna’ get set up like Ms. Green got set up!”
In a further show of strength, the new four-vote majority approved, by another 4-3 margin, to pay Green’s legal fees stemming from the March assault incident. The board had voted to pay MacIntyre’s fees at an earlier meeting.
The emerging four-vote bloc actually coalesced earlier during the Aug. 17 meeting during a tempestuous and prolonged debate over whether or not to immediately pay fees to the district’s attorney, Charis Lee.
“I could’ve already taken this to court.”
After a cacophonous end to the Flint district’s long relationship with The Williams Firm in the fall of 2021, a promising new relationship with the law firm of Charis Lee also has become tempestuous. Lee had been recommended to the board by Ellis-McNeal. But Ellis-McNeal had led a months-long effort to block payment of Lee for her firm’s legal services for allegedly not following proper procedures.
MacIntyre joined Ellis-McNeal in vehemently opposing payment to Lee:
- Ellis-McNeal: “The (district’s auditing firm) has advised … that we refrain from paying until we hear from them. … This board has an obligation to the auditor. … We didn’t authorize [to] let her (Lee) …. bill, and bill, and bill without documentation. … Excessive invoices kept coming in, $7,000, $8,000, $9,000. … I have requested that the attorney meet with myself and the superintendent.”
- MacIntyre: “This matter is getting very sloppy and unprofessional. … This vendor (Lee) has refused to follow the procedure. … You cannot vote to pay a vendor carte blanche; that’s not how fiscal responsibility works. We did vote to pay initial invoices which were paid; at this point there are many other ones that are very problematic. … The procedures have to be followed.”
McIntosh, Gilbert, Green, and Del Morone vigorously argued for prompt payment of Lee’s services:
- McIntosh: “This is sabotage … If this board voted to pay her (Lee) no outside auditor overrides this board. ,,, We have her (Lee’s) bill and it’s not excessive. … This is slanderous (in reference to the comments about Lee by Ellis-McNeal and MacIntyre). …”
- Gilbert: “The previous board, before I got here, approved of this attorney (Lee) to be the board’s attorney. … If that attorney was in contract with this board and this district, we’re responsible. … I don’t think this attorney has been treated fairly.”
“I think she has the right to come before us and defend herself,” Gilbert said after introducing a motion to have Lee, who was present in the audience, come forward and speak to the board. “I see no problem with that,” Del Morone said in support. “It’s better to deal with it in-house than in the courthouse.”
In a rare moment of unanimity, the board voted 7-0 to have Lee come forward. Lee gave a spirited defense of her work for the district.
“I decided not to play politics,” Lee said. “That you would withhold money from me, I really do not appreciate that, especially when you know I don’t overbill this district; I underbill you. And I made sure to only bill you for things I could prove. … Everything that I have billed, I have worked for.”
“I live in this community,” said an impassioned Lee. “I have no desire to steal from you. … The allegations, because I won’t play these games, is appalling. … My name, my firm has been slandered and I do not appreciate it. … I’ve still been willing and asking you and begging you to work with me and talk with me about these allegations, because allegations don’t mean they are true.”
Lee said her firm has not been paid for its work for the district since February. “I could’ve already taken this to court,” she said. “I’ve never had an issue with getting paid until President McNeal became president. … You have not cooperated with me as (the) board attorney since April.”
“I’m not interested in meeting with you (McNeal) and the superintendent,” Lee said, “because I’m not interested in getting set up.”
The discussion lasted for 79 minutes and became so rancorous that the security officer assigned to FBOE meetings, once again, appeared from the hallway and took a seat near board members.
MacIntyre accused other FBOE members of “grandstanding (and) performative circus.” Green accused Ellis-McNeal of “lying like you do about everything else.”
In the end, the Flint board’s emerging four-vote bloc – McIntosh, Green, Gilbert, and Del Morone – joined by Boose, voted to pay Lee for services rendered. Then they immediately removed McNeal and MacIntyre as board officers.
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The remaining meetings of the Flint Board of Education in 2022 are scheduled for: Sept. 14 & 21; Oct. 12 & 19; Nov. 9 & 16; Dec. 14 & 21. They can be viewed remotely or in person. Meetings are held at the ALA building, 1602 S. Averill Ave., Flint, MI 48503. Further details are available at the district’s website. (www.flintschools.org)
EVM Education Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.