Tom Tolen /

The Brighton Education Association, which has been getting free use of a room at Brighton High School for its meetings and conducting other business, will still be able to do so after action by the Board of Education.

In a contentious meeting Monday night, the board decided on 4-3 vote to adopt a resolution largely drafted by its legal counsel, the Thrun Law Firm, which greatly restricts its activities and use of the room for its office. Those voting in favor of the resolution were Angela Krebs, Alicia Reid, Jennifer Marks and Board President Roger Myers. Those opposed included John Conely, Bill Trombley and Andy Storm.

The BEA has used the room for about 40 years as its place to meet, strategize and conduct other union business. The allowed use of a “facility" at the school is even enshrined in the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the BEA. Board President Roger Myers said at the meeting that since the union’s use of a room at the building is in the master contract, nothing can be done about it until the teachers’ contract expires in two years. Superintendent Matthew Outlaw proffered that the district had been advised that having a BEA office at the high school “is legal, at the discretion of the board, under the General Powers Act.”

The meeting eventually deteriorated into a shouting match instigated by Board Treasurer John Conely, primarily against Myers. Conely said that his business had been “targeted” by the union, alleging union officials said they would have it shut down if he didn’t resign.

Conely asked for, but got no action, on his request for a third party investigation by a law firm into whether the use of the room for BEA business was illegal and whether the union is engaging in “illegal activities” in the room used by the BEA. He also asked for an investigation into whether any election laws had been broken. He alleged that campaign literature endorsing particular board of education candidates had been produced in the room used by the BEA but it was covered up by members when leaving the building. Recently elected board Trustee Storm, who has several children in district schools, largely agreed with Conely on his accusations but said that, in his words, “This is not an attack on teachers.”

In addition to criticism of the BEA, Conely changed the subject matter to areas of concern not related to the BEA’s use of the room, including a Title IX case involving a 5-year-old boy at a Brighton elementary school and a situation in school bathrooms wherein some students have been caught vaping. Conely and Board Vice President Bill Trombley both called on the board to stop dragging its feet on the vaping problem and to approve the purchase of vaping detectors in all district bathrooms immediately. Trombley said that, in his words, “I don’t see how vape detectors would break our budget.” But Myers responded that the board has been working diligently on the problem and said, quoting, “At the next meeting we will be prepared to approve vape detectors.”

Conely also urged the board to leave the Michigan Association of School Boards, saying the organization didn’t have the best interests of the district at heart. Myers charged back that the MASB works diligently on behalf of all school districts and boards of education in the state. Myers said further that to cancel the district’s membership of the MASB "would be a dereliction of our duty."

A number of people spoke at the public comments portion of the meeting. While teachers who spoke voiced their support for the BEA, parents were almost universally opposed to the teachers’ union’s use of a room at the high school, with access to district technology, equipment and phones — aspects that are no longer the case. When using the room, the BEA must now provide its own technology, copiers, phones and other equipment. After about three hours of discussion and debate, the board broke into executive session, with no further action taken. The board does not meet again in regular session until March 13th.

A copy of the resolution is attached.