Lee County school board member’s actions questioned

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:
School District of Lee County seal. Photo via WINK News.
School District of Lee County seal. Credit: WINK News.

A renewed call for a Lee County School Board member to resign comes Wednesday night after a whistleblower complaint and a historic move for the board.

“I move to censure board member Miss Patricca until the whistleblower complaint can be investigated and completed,” said Lee County school board member Melisa Giovannelli.

With that, a first in Lee School Board history, voting to censure board member Chris Patricca.

The censure stems from a whistleblower complaint. Currently, the complaint has not been made public, and board members didn’t discuss details on the record.

School board member Giovannelli filed the motion to censure.

“It’s protecting our employees. We don’t agree with what a board member is doing or has done,” Giovannelli said. “We are going to protect our employees, and we care.”

School board policies don’t appear to specifically address censureship and it won’t affect Patricca’s ability to operate or communicate as a board member.

School Board member Gwyn Gittens said the censure is meant to express disapproval of Patricca.

“We collectively, at least five of us on that board, realize there are issues,”Gittens said.

Giovannelli added: “We have a habit of some board members stepping out of their lane. We need to get back in our lane. We operate as one, not as seven individuals. That’s key.”

Patricca voted against the censure which passed with a 5-2 vote.

Patricca briefly addressed the complaint after it came up in the board meeting.

“I 100% completely and totally agree with Ms. Giovannelli and believe this should be investigated at the earliest possible moment,” Patricca said.

The censure will last until the whistleblower complaint is resolved.

Giovannelli put the ball in Patricca’s court to close the board meeting.

“We could save the taxpayer’s money by not investigating if Ms. Patricca would like to resign,” Giovannelli said.

School district officials said there isn’t a deadline for when the investigation or censure will end.

Patricca sent WINK News the following statement:

“The burden of leadership, especially today, is to be accused of things that are not true. I welcome an investigation because I have done nothing wrong and I look forward to refocusing our work on student achievement, supporting our teachers and staff, and providing the best educational system for the people of Lee County.”

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