Saturday, March 2, 2013
Legal Sunshine Needed
Shawn Williams, Director
Public Records Division
One Ashburton Place, 17th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Dear Mr. Williams,
I wish to once again appeal the decision of the Amherst Regional Public Schools to stonewall my public documents request for legal settlements that have cost Amherst taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As you may remember your office sided with me last year on a previous complaint regarding ARPS settlement agreements with terminated employees totaling over $200,000. The schools continue to refuse releasing those documents.
Now I wish to appeal the 2/26/13 decision of Rob Detweiler, Director of Finance and Operations, to withhold settlement agreements totalling $229,300 from recent "Special Education" legal cases.
Obviously I understand certain information -- names of students for instance -- should be redacted to protect privacy, but certainly with that much settlement money involved the taxpayers have a right to know how many cases it represents and the details of those cases.
Even if the money was paid by an insurance carrier a Hampshire Superior Court judge found the settlement agreement between the Phoebe Prince family and South Hadley Schools were still a pubic document even though the $225,000 payout came from liability insurance.
Your office has also repeatedly stuck down the concept of "non disclosure agreements" citing Washington Post ., 690 F. 2d at 263 ( a government agency cannot circumvent the Federal Freedom of Information Act with a private agreement).
Please remind the Amherst Regional Public Schools that the general public has a right to know.
Larry J. Kelley