By John McLoone
The brief, embattled term of Mike Reis on the Hastings School Board came to an end with his announcement that he resigned effective immediately Monday night.
Reis emailed the school board members and Superintendent Dr. Robert Mc-Dowell Saturday, July 15, stating he was filing a civil rights complaint against the school district. Reis did not return an email seeking details of the complaint or a copy of the complaint.
He sent the following email to Superintendent Dr. Robert McDowell, School Board Chair Brian Davis and other board members Monday night: “I was going to send this email from my School Board account, but it appears I’m locked out.
“To all the supporters and voters, thank you.
“Effective immediately, (Monday) July 18, 2022 at 7:15 PM CST, I resign from my Hastings (MN) District 200 School Board position.”
A resolution to censure Reis was passed by a 42 vote on May 2 after two nights of school board meetings. The censure resolution was meant to guide how Reis could communicate with administration and school district employees. The censure came about after Reis forwarded numerous emails to the Hastings Journal and KDWA radio on board business and items he was seeking from
Mike Reis the board. He filed numerous information requests from the district as well.
Reis’ censure was to be reconsidered every 30 days. Under the censure, McDowell, Davis and the school district law firm were “to place appropriate and reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on Mr. Reis’s communications with District Staff. The time, place and manner restrictions will be revisited on a 30day cycle by legal counsel, Superintendent McDowell and Chair Davis.”
It further stated, “Mr. Reis is not to engage in the same or similar conduct as that discussed above. If he does, the School Board reserves the right to impose additional disciplinary action, including but not limited to pursuing his removal from the School Board.”
Reis was informed by Davis in June that the censure was being kept in place five days after Reis inquired about it at the monthly board meeting. Davis wrote at that time, “I am writing in response to your question, at the board meeting, about receiving communication regarding the time, place and manner restrictions established as part of your censure. The letter you received stated that this situation would be reviewed at the 30day mark and you will be notified if there are any changes. After meeting with the superintendent, who has also spoken with legal counsel, there are no changes to report, and therefore the requirements outlined in the letter will remain in effect.”
Following that, Reis emailed Davis asking that the censure be appealed.
According to Minnesota State Statutes, a school board seat “may be filled by board appointment at a regular or special meeting.” Because there is more than one year remaining on Reis’ term in office, a special election will need to be scheduled.
The district could fill the vacancy via a public hearing. Statute states, “At the public hearing, the board must invite public testimony from persons residing in the district in which the vacancy occurs relating to the qualifications of prospective appointees to fill the vacancy. Before making an appointment, the board also must notify public officials in the school district on the appointment, including county commissioners, town supervisors, and city council members, and must enter into the record at the board meeting in which the appointment is made the names and addresses of the public officials notified.”
If a decision can’t be reached at the hearing, a special election must be held.
Davis released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: “I can confirm that I received a resignation email from Mr. Reis. The Board will be asked to accept the resignation and declare a vacancy at its next Board meeting. I also have been asked for responses to recent posts regarding Director Reis in the media.
“I hope those who watched what took place at the April 27, 2022 and May 2, 2022 School Board meetings understand why the Board felt it necessary to issue Mr. Reis a censure. From what I have seen, there is a great deal of community support of the Board and Superintendent McDowell helping focus us on the future work to be done. As to his recent claims that the censure is illegal, the United States Supreme Court unanimously issued a decision earlier this year that clearly does not support his claims. The Board was wellwithin its legal rights to respond to Mr. Reis’s inappropriate conduct with a censure.
“Turning to Mr. Reis’s suggestion that the censure itself would be revisited by the Board, the Board’s censure resolution does not say the Board will revisit or remove the censure. What the resolution actually says is that the time, place, and manner restrictions on Mr. Reis’s requests for information will be reviewed periodically. The time, place, and manner restrictions are not the same as the censure itself. The resolution is publicly available on the District’s website as part of the May 2 special meeting minutes for community members who would like to read it for themselves.
“Finally, as to Mr. Reis’s comments about the restrictions on his communications with District administration, the reasonable time, place and manner restrictions imposed on Director Reis remained in effect as originally outlined in the letter issued to him following the May 2 special meeting. Mr. Reis was allowed to submit reasonable information requests to Superintendent McDowell. Any statement to the contrary is false. Mr. Reis separately has the right as a private citizen to make data requests under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to the same degree as any other member of the public can make a data request. On top of these avenues for Mr. Reis to request information, Mr. Reis had been receiving Board packet information and updates just like all other Board members do. He was able to participate in Board meetings and ask questions about the items discussed at the Board level although he chose to miss a number of them. Mr. Reis did not specifically identify any information he felt he needed to carry out his duties as a Board member that he didn't already have access to. In Mr. Reis’s resignation email, he referenced not having access to his School Board email account. I do not know what he is referencing as the District did not disable his access to email. Now that Mr. Reis submitted his resignation effective yesterday, he no longer has a need for his School Board email and District administration will be disabling his access.”