In a 6-2 vote Tuesday night, former North Penn School Board member Joseph Sullivan was appointed to fill the term left by resigning board member Rick Miniscalco, beating out fellow nominee and former Democratic Next STEP For North Penn candidate Tina Stoll.
Stoll's former Democratic Students and Taxpayers Expect Progress peers, and current school board members, Carolyn Murphy and Suzan Leonard voted against Sullivan's nomination.
There were six applicants in all for the open position: Sullivan, Stoll, Michelle Epps, former school board candidate Don Litman, Neshaminy Falls resident Don Riley and former Republican Lansdale Borough Council candidate Walter "Cory" Brown.
"Between all the candidates, clearly the thought was Sullivan was the most qualified," board President Vince Sherpinsky said.
Sullivan will fill Miniscalco's term, ending December 2015.
Sullivan served one term on the North Penn School Board, ending December 2013.
Sullivan is employed by the federal government as a contract auditor, and due to the Hatch Act, he is prohibited from running for partisan elective office. Under the act, a federal employee is not prohibited, however, from holding the office if appointed.
Murphy thought that was a bad thing. Sherpinsky said it's just the contrary.
"Running for office is not a qualification. To say we're going to appoint somebody that is not going to run, it's not going to be a political issue," he said. "He can't be involved with any of the politics with the school board."
Murphy wanted the school board to interview each candidate for the appointment. Sherpinsky said the state does not require the board to do that.
"In a survey of several school boards in Montgomery County, almost all do interview candidates for replacement as a matter of protocol," Murphy said. "As a new board member, I didn't know what would happen with this."
Sherpinsky said interviews wouldn't be fair to the candidates.
"Do you think it's fair to put somebody for an interview if there is a majority of opinion against one of those two candidates? I don't think so," he said. "I think it would be, not only a waste of their time, but I think it would be dishonest to say, we'll call you in here for a 45-minute interview."
Board member Frank O'Donnell said three of the candidates disqualified themselves.
"If you really read all the paperwork for all the people that submitted ... you should know that," O'Donnell told Murphy. "One didn't submit financial documents. Two got it wrong. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week put a high emphasis on getting that document right and submitting it on time. Three people, in my opinion, already knocked themselves out. One should do spell check, and another person scared me."
"The people you are recommending," O'Donnell said to Murphy, referencing Stoll, "didn't do the format right."
Board Vice President Tim Kerr said it was wrong to put people through a process when he can make a decision by looking at the paperwork.
"There's no one more qualified than a veteran of the board that's been off the board for five months," Kerr said. "I find it hard to believe anybody's going to come here and offer us something more. With that kind of familiarity in the budget process, in a situation where we're facing some of the toughest decisions we'll ever have to make, I'm glad that he's going to come back."
Kerr said Sullivan could run for school board as an Independent, but "unfortunately the rules are such that we know that Independents don't go anywhere."
After the meeting, Sherpinsky said Miniscalco would be missed. Miniscalco had been re-elected every year to the school board since 1999.
"He was a very effective board member. He spent many years here, and he was an integral part of leadership, and of support services," he said. "He carried a lot of water for the school board. But with his family commitments, it was time to move on.'"
Sherpinsky said many forget being a school board member is a volunteer job.
"They told me it's one day ... Yeah. 24 hours!" he said. "They don't realize it."