What exactly did Karen Gleason do at the School Audit meeting?
Since I posted my story on last week's Portsmouth Town Hall open session with Berkshire Associates, I've had a couple of questions and comments about the role Town Councilor Karen Gleason played at this session. Questions were raised about the characterization of her "chairing" the session.
I've reviewed and recorded the session as it aired on Channel 18, and have posted two relevant clips to YouTube. In her time at the microphone, she says, "Please come up to the podium, I really do want you to provide your input." Asking citizens for input is a role which I would characterize as a chair-like function. And in the clip from the end of the meeting, she personally thanks people, describes ways of talking to the school committee, and again solicits input. Watch for yourself.
But in addition to the clips, here are some observations. Since I arrived a couple of minutes late, I did not see, nor did the video record, the beginning of the meeting, but Gleason is clearly standing near the podium with Berkshire Associates consultant Mike Walker. She then sat in the front row, immediately next to the podium. During the times that Jack Callahan and Joe Lorenz speak, she can be heard offering amplifications and clarifying points. She adjusts Mike Walker's microphone.
At one point, a citizen asks if they can remain seated for their contribution and Walker says, "I would let you sit there, but Karen is the taskmaster."
When Marianne Raymo is at the podium, Gleason can be heard asking her "Do you have a question?" Raymo quite logically takes exception to the interruption, replying that "Other people were up here talking."
Near the end of the meeting, she takes up a position near the microphone, sitting briefly at the Town Clerk's station.
And at the end of the meeting, when she "wraps up" (second video clip) she specifically says, "Certainly we don't want to stop at the audit," which implies both a role in the meeting, and in my opinion sounds like a town official.