The Washington Local school board voted Thursday night to ask controversial member Patrick Hickey to resign, a move that came one week after Michigan State Police confirmed they are investigating him for criminal sexual conduct.
Mr. Hickey and board member Lisa Canales were not present at the meeting, but board members Tom Ilstrup, Dave Hunter, and Mark Hughes all voted for the resolution after meeting for about half an hour in closed session during the special meeting. The decision was met with applause from the audience of about 50.
Mr. Ilstrup said it was with “a heavy heart” that he made the motion.
“The seriousness of the charges that the prosecutor is anticipating, looking at the statute that he is potentially being charged under, and just the fact that it really is creating a huge distraction for this district,” he said. “We’re not talking about kids, and that’s really why we’re here.”
Ms. Canales was absent from the meeting because of a medical emergency but when reached by phone said she had asked Mr. Ilstrup to call the special meeting.
“I definitely support what the board did tonight,” she said. “We need to heal.”
Michigan State Police last week confirmed it has reopened a criminal sexual conduct case officers were looking into in 2016 regarding Mr. Hickey. A 2016 police report shows a woman told an investigator she had sex with Mr. Hickey when she was 14, and he was her coach and teacher at Addison High School in Addison, Mich., more than two decades ago.
Mr. Hickey resigned from the Addison district in 1990. He has denied wrongdoing and could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Washington Local Schools parent Tina Wagner applauded the board’s decision. She is one of many regular faces at the often-packed school board meetings since Mr. Hickey was elected in November.
“I’m extremely proud of the board. I’m extremely proud,” she said. “I just hope that he will follow the advice of the board and resign.”
Kathy Mayfield, a Washington Local Schools graduate, called on Mr. Hickey to resign during public comment at a board meeting last month. She said she was pleased the board voted unanimously to ask him to step down.
“Even if it’s mostly symbolic, I think it’s great moving forward that we’re going to be all on the same page and the focus really is going to be back to the kids,” she said, though she expressed concerns that Mr. Hickey won’t resign. “The board has made it clear the direction they want to head, and it’s his responsibility to honor those, in my opinion.”
Mr. Ilstrup said the board doesn’t have any authority to remove Mr. Hickey from the board but that his fellow members are asking him to leave his seat “for the good of the district.”
“If he doesn’t, we’ll move forward on the basis that he’s been elected to the board of education and deal with it there,” he said.
If Mr. Hickey does resign, the board will appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next election, Mr. Ilstrup said.
The board passed two other motions on Thursday, each with affirmative votes from Mr. Ilstrup, Mr. Hunter, and Mr. Hughes.
One mandates that no board member is allowed to direct any administrator other than through a resolution approved by this board. The board president may provide guidance to the superintendent, treasurer, and legal counsel “as requested by them.”
The other motion clarified that the board moved its meetings off district property solely so that Mr. Hickey could attend board meetings in January, February, and March. “No other changes to Mr. Hickey’s authority to enter board property or attend any events controlled by this board are or were authorized,” the motion said.
Mr. Hickey has been banned from district property since an altercation at a basketball game in 2016, and his 2015 separation agreement with the district already had limited his access to campus.
The next regular board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Post 587 on Alexis Road.
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