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New Hanover school board members trade accusations, 'no-confidence' and 'censure' motions in heated meeting

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During the Tuesday, June 22 special meeting of the Board of Education debated two motions aimed at chastising specific members.

At Tuesday's special New Hanover County School Board meeting, sparks flew among the members when Board Chair Stefanie Adams introduced a controversial motion, calling for a vote of no confidence for Judy Justice — which Justice answered with a
motion to censure Adams.

The policy up for discussion was the board’s code of ethics. Some of what Adams accused Justice of included disclosing confidential matters with the public, making false allegations against superintendent Dr. Charles Foust, and bringing forth motions without discussing them with other board members.

“Based on the items listed, I request a motion to adopt a resolution of no confidence in light of behaviors of Ms. Justice that they are not consistent with Policy 2120 and do not represent the focus of this board or New Hanover County Schools and staff," Adams said.

After a lengthy discussion, the board supported the no-confidence motion for Justice in a split vote, with board members Stephanie Walker and Pete Wildeboer joining Justice in voting "no.” The board's policy does not appear to clearly define the 'no-confidence vote,' but it does not remove Justice from the board; the board attorney confirmed it was a legitimate motion to express the board's general disapproval of Justice's behavior.

Then Justice introduced a motion to “censure” Adams over her recent comments at the last board meeting, where she repeatedly called Justice a liar over whether or not the board was slated to discuss potential conflict of interest issues pertaining to the board's attorney. Adams defended her comments by saying it was her First Amendment right, adding that "I try to do to the best of my ability as board chair in very, very difficult situations." Walker supported and helped refine the motion — which failed 5 to 2.

Before the end of the contentious meeting, Hugh McManus had some parting words:

“This is totally embarrassing and it’s not going to stop, that’s the problem. Whoever wins today, someone is going to try to do something later. At some point, we are going to have to eat our egos. I’ve listened to this, I’m embarrassed. No one’s going to win this folks. If I were watching this today, and I wasn’t on the board, I would say, ‘What idiots have we elected?’ — everyone of us," McManus said.

McManus says the board should be focusing on academics and teacher recruitment and salaries.

Below: Tuesday's special meeting.