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Stoughton school board votes to censure a member

STOUGHTON — The School Committee censured member Erdem Ural Thursday night, citing what chairwoman Deborah Sovinee called “rogue” behavior.

The vote was 3-1, with Sovinee, Joyce Husseini, and George Dolinsky approving the motion and Ural voting against. Member Thomas Colburn missed the meeting due to travel delays.

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Sovinee, in a prepared statement, accused Ural of exceeding his authority by unilaterally reprimanding a school principal and creating “dysfunction” on the board. She also accused him of ignoring guidelines set up for the evaluation of School Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi.

“Mr. Ural’s actions have been a huge distraction requiring hours of my time and the superintendent’s time,” said Sovinee.

Ural, who said he was guilty only of seeking “transparency and accountability” on the board, was unhappy that there was no public comment period at the beginning of the meeting and that an attorney who accompanied him to the meeting also was not allowed to speak. The committee recently approved a policy allowing public comment at its meetings.

“I asked the chairman why there was no public comment, and she could not answer me,” Ural said after the meeting.

Sovinee said Thursday’s meeting was not a regular meeting of the committee. “This was not a public hearing,” she said in an interview. “In this specific case, the rule did not apply. People are welcome to comment at our regular meetings.”

Ural has filed a series of complaints in past years with the state attorney general’s office alleging that the board has violated the state’s Open Meeting Law. Sovinee said the board has spent about $20,000 in legal fees defending itself, and the only change as a result of the complaints has been to add more details to the minutes of one executive session.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said two other committee members have been censured in the past year, one in Pittsfield and a member of the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School board.

The action by the Stoughton board will have no real effect on how Ural, who has two years left on his term, performs his duties. A recall election is the only way to remove a committee member. Ural was first elected to the board in 2008, lost his seat in 2011, and regained it a year ago.

Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.rich2@gmail.com.
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