The most powerful member of the Hesperia Unified School District school board Monday night was the one who wasn't there.

Board member Anthony Riley was missing at the start of the meeting, leaving the board with an even number of votes. When board members clashed about items on the agenda, and split down the middle on whether to approve the agenda, the board was unable to approve any course of action for the evening and legally could do nothing requiring further votes.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Riley, we're not having a board meeting tonight," board vice-president Lee Rogers told Riley when he arrived at 8 p.m., 90 minutes after the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start of the public portion of the meeting.

Board members Hardy Black and Chris Bentley had clashed over several of the information items placed on the agenda by Bentley, some of which had been bouncing from agenda to agenda since January, never being taken up by the board. At issue were how many items had been placed on the agenda by Bentley: Five of the information items were originally asked for by Bentley. This fall, the board voted to limit the number of items a board member can place on the agenda to two, and HUSD legal counsel Dennis Wagner indicated that such bylaw changes are retroactive. That would make Bentley's agenda items incompatible with board bylaws, months after he originally sought to have the board discuss the issues.

"I'm trying to solve a problem," said board member Robert Kirk, asking the board to reopen the vote on the board agenda after Riley's arrival and the earlier stalemate.

"You've really got me earning my money tonight," said Wagner. "When the 2-2 vote on the meeting agenda tonight failed, there's no meeting to go forward."

The next regular meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.

Before then, the board will hold a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, beginning at 4 p.m., to discuss the framework for contract negotiations.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.