JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A tense meeting of the Onslow County Board of Education is leading to some of its members requesting the resignation of Chairman Bill Lanier.

In February’s board of education meeting, arguments erupted between some on the board and audience members, which caused some of the audience members to be removed. In Tuesday’s meeting, board member Angie Todd introduced a new item agenda, the election of a new chair and vice chair.  

In a statement to WNCT, Todd said, “There is clearly a need to replace our board’s chair. A board operates best when the chair has the confidence of who they lead, which sadly is no longer the case.”

Tuesday’s vote was 4-3 to not add this election to their agenda. Following the vote, business began as normal. The first public speaker to address the board was stopped by Mr. Lanier, with board and audience members speaking up, similar to February’s meeting.

“Would the deputies at any point identify these people chiming in and escort them out? I tell you what, we are in recess right now. We are in recess,” said Mr. Lanier in the meeting.

“That’s not my time to speak, nor anyone on the board,” said board member Louis Rogers, in response to the incident. “I voiced my frustration in that he provided documents for us to view with him that weren’t given to us. That’s where I had the biggest challenge.”

Rogers argues that Mr. Lanier had knowledge of the case being presented, without informing the board. Mr. Lanier said the speaker was addressing an administrative process in the works, which cannot be discussed in public comment.

In a statement from the speaker, Christopher Cota-Robles said:

“I felt as if my 1st Amendment rights were trying to be silenced. As if the board didn’t want any light to be shed on this situation and exposed to the public eye.”

During the recess, Mr. Lanier addressed Cota-Robles, which some board members argue is against their policy. After the recess, Cota-Robles was able to continue his statement and the meeting finished as normal.

According to Onslow County Schools Chief Communications Officer Brent Anderson, board member Melissa Oakley changed her vote on the adjustment to the agenda Wednesday morning. She submitted a letter via email requesting the resignation of Mr. Lanier as board chair.

In her letter, Oakley says:

“After last night’s (Tuesday) meeting and the escalation of behavior as the night progressed, I hold no faith in the leadership of our chairman.”

Mr. Lanier argues this chain of emails from board members breaks open meetings law.

“We weren’t collaborating with her. But to request a meeting, we have to do that. So no, we’re not concerned that we violated any open meetings laws,” said Rogers.

With Oakley’s letter to vote in a new chair and vice chair, the superintendent has selected March 15 to hold a special meeting for the election. Mr. Lanier said he’s reflecting on what’s happened and will continue to serve his full four-year term, although he will no longer be chairman.

“Once we get the leadership issue resolved, you’re gonna see a very, very effective board. That is exactly what you’ll see,” Rogers said.

The full statement from Bill Lanier reads:

“Over the past few months I have warned at community meetings that a change would be occurring in the demographics of our Board of Education to the detriment of the School District.  School Board Members had begun challenging the Chair’s authority while being disruptive along with the public in attendance.  The strategies are used to sow discord, doubt, and demoralization of and through the district while fomenting the appearance of ineptitude and hidden agendas in order to wrest control of majority vote.  These antics have delayed routine business and publicly demoralized Executive Staff and the Superintendent. That day has come for Onslow County, where it appears various Board Members partner with special interest groups (violating oaths and ethics) to install their preferred leadership through majority vote.  Within a week, the Superintendent will be required to initiate a Special Called Meeting to install a new Chairman and Vice Chairman.  This is not indulgence of self-pity, but a warning to the district that ignorance and possible abandonment of policy will reap a high cost at all levels of operation. Some of those to be installed may seek to do the Superintendent’s job of administration.  For everyone, get as involved as these groups, to ensure that your Board Members remain public servants who are free of influence and beholden to policy, process, and practice while District Employees are trusted to do what they are hired for.

“I thank you for the support you’ve given me over the years, and I will continue to serve my full four-year term come what may.”

The full statement from Angie Todd reads:

“There is clearly a need to replace our Board’s chair. A Board operates best when the Chair has the confidence of who they lead, which sadly is no longer the case. Our Board has the critical task of serving our community by creating and maintaining a positive, safe place for students to learn and prepare for adulthood in our public schools. The Board, in my opinion, has been distracted by antics that do not serve the Board’s function well and I am confident with new leadership, we will be back on task with the work at hand while listening to the voice of the community, while respecting their first amendment rights as well.”