Monday, July 27, 2015

School Payouts: A Little Sunshine

Amherst Regional High School (Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, Shutesbury)

Emails between School officials and the Regional School Committee clearly show Carolyn Gardner wanted the $180,000 MCAD lawsuit settlement to become public.

In fact the settlement would not have been reached without the Schools issuing a press release fully disclosing all aspects of the agreement.

Ironically School Superintendent Maria Geryk takes the School Committee to task for a security breach where I published an email she had sent to Vira Douangmany (copied to the entire Regional School Committee) on this now rather PUBLIC matter.

Damn bloggers!


Anonymous said...

What you don't get Larry is that when emails are released as part of a Public Records request, confidential portions of the email will be redacted. When SC members leak such emails that redaction is not done. Very bad form for SC members to be leaking emails but not at all surprising with this bunch, some of whom seem to be ethically challenged.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a reasonable expectation on the Superintendent's part that an Email from her to a School Committee member would not be released to this blog, or any blog, for that matter. I think this action harms the line of communication that needs to exist long-term between Ms. Geryk and our elected officials.

When the time comes for me as a voter to assess a School Committee member for reelection, one of the questions I will ask is: how effectively did this incumbent work with other members of the Committee, and with school administration officials?

We've had this problem before: board members who fail to recognize that they work THROUGH THE COMMITTEE they were elected to. We saw that most glaringly in recent memory with Library Trustees. School Committee members are not free agents pursuing their personal agendas, no matter how sincere and public-spirited those may be. They have responsibilities to others with whom they work, not just the residents and taxpayers of the Town. There are priorities in town government as great as "sunshine", including the trust that creates the necessary candor and flow of information between the Superintendent (and her assistants) and the elected officials she is answerable to. It's really not a sustainable, healthy situation to have SC members who leak like a sieve.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

I can assure you I have redacted WAY more documents over the past 20 years than anybody in the Amherst Public Schools.

Had there been anything remotely sensitive (of a personal or legal nature)in that email I would have redacted it first.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...

On July 10th, Vira sent an email to a staff member-- to be forwarded to the whole School Committee ("Dear Fellow SC members")-- expressing her opinion on a matter before the SC.

On July 14th, Vira filed a complaint against Katherine Appy for doing the exact same thing.

What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:09, you're not missing anything. Vira did exactly what Katherine Appy did - except that Vira's email is VERY CLEARLY filled with her opinion whereas Dr. Appy's is not so clear that she was expressing an opinion.

Vira has shown her true colors. I hope the voters are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like her legal counsel made out like bandits. Well played, good sirs/ladies/its!

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, if she had hired them by the hour rather than contingency she would have made out a LOT better.

Anonymous said...

Sure seems like they never had any intention of defending the Amherst taxpayers in this debacle. In fact, it looks like they really needed to assuage their perceived guilt. I still can't fathom why they felt the need to settle. I would love to hear Rich Morse's professional opinion on whether she deserved a payout or not. Richard Marsh

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Marsh, for your belief that I would know something here. Whatever expertise I still have, however, is strictly in the area of criminal justice as a retired prosecutor in state courts. I have no greater ability than anyone else to look over the shoulder of the schools' legal representation here and make an assessment.

I do know, from my understanding of the marketplace, that Ms. Gardner had some of the best legal representation one can find here in the Valley. In an environment in which I am at a loss as to how ordinary people smartly shop for legal services, she got tremendously astute guidance.

Rich Morse

Df.Ed said...

Rich Morse -- she got politically-connected bullies, nothing less. No offense, but lawyers are why I have no respect for the legal profession, why I hold lawyers in even more contempt than I hold psychologists. And these lawyers in particular --- well, I don't like bullies.

They won, yes, but they won the same way they won with Jason Vassell, by screaming "RACISM" regardless of if it was even relevant. They are experts in the concept of the "big lie" -- that anything, that people will eventually believe a lie, no matter how implausible, if it is (a) told to them often enough *AND* (B) no one is permitted to challenge the lie. It's "textbook fascism" and, not surprisingly, it was Hitler & Himmler who used it to help perpetrate and promote the then-ongoing Holocaust.

The public can not have access to information because facts not only enable one to realize that the "Big Lie" is a lie, but enables one to convince others of the same. It is the difference between a police officer saying that someone destroyed public property and having dashcam video of the perp's shod foot repeatedly coming down and progressively smasing the cruiser's windshied.

And it means something to be a friend of mine -- it has to or I wouldn't have any.

So when a friend of mine was accused of lying when she wrote an OPINION piece that accurately described the allegations being made against Vassel, when it was being alleged that Vassell's victims had only minor scratches -- I posted g the court documents on my (personal) website for all to see.

(She didn't have a car and the Belchertown Court isn't (or wasn't then) exactly accessible by public transportation. Whom do you think went over there and got them for her?)

Hoose 'n' Ryan bullied UMass into blocking public access to the same. A public entity prevented a private citizen (me, grad student) from presenting a public record to the public -- a public record that most people wouldn't know how to obtain, even if they knew that it even existed. It would have been one thing if they had gone through the court, although THAT would have been newsworthy and badly backfired on them.

No, they just bullied UMass into violating my civil rights.

I was so shocked that I didn't do what I now wish I had -- file a formal complaint with the Bar. Mr. Morse, what would your take -- as a prosecutor -- be if you had been prosecuting a legitimate "attempted murder" case and this had happened? Yes, this was a legitimate "attempted murder" case -- They may have been the Milton Town Drunks, but those two boys were/are human beings, and but for the AFD, they'd be dead. All of this was caught on video, everything including Vassell lunging across the entire lobby toward two boys cowering at the far end, and repeadedly stabbing each of them was on video that I presume that Hoose 'n' Ryan had seen.

Defense Counsel can say what they want to, but if you had been prosecuting a case where defense counsel was publicly stating that the alleged facts were quite different from what they actually were, where an intrepid reporter had obtained a copy of what the actual allegations were, where a third party had then published these public documents to show that they actually showed what the reporter claimed they did, with defense counsel then getting a subdivision of the commonwealth to use its police powers to stop/prevent said third party from publishing said public documents -- what would you have done?

Dr. Ed said...

Now, for the record, when a MHC student told me that she (a) had been bullied into taking out a 209A order that she neither wanted nor considered necessary, (b) she wanted it to be eliminated but didn't know how to do that, and -- most importantly to her -- she didn't want to see a young man who had violated it go to jail for having done so -- when she approached me as the adviser of a UMass student group kinda associated with a MHC group that she belonged to -- a 20 year old student more than a thousand miles from home and way in over her head -- points she made in asking my assistance -- well, I tried to help her.

I told her that she should put on professional attire, go to the DA's Office and *politely* ask to either speak to the particular ADA prosecuting this case or to make an appointment to do so -- and then, again politely, explain why she (a) wasn't afraid of him, (b) felt that she had been bullied into the 209A order, (c) why she thought it was politically motivated and (d) why she didn't think that "justice would be served" by him being prosecuted for having violated this order, why she didn't want him going to jail.

No, Lisa Kidwell, you didn't get a copy of that email, or several others, and -- believe it or not -- I really am a "by the book Boy Scout" who has "poured" more than one quite attractive young lady back INTO her little black dress (or at least *something*, e.g. her coat) and gotten her home and into her bed - ALONE - because it was the "right thing to do."

She was going there the next Monday, but instead stumbled into the PIKE fraternity where she was filled with ETOH and then used as a bully cudgel by the political enemies of the subject of the order, with the mASSgop richly rewarding everyone involved in the mASSgop attempt to destroy this particular undergrad. Judge Payne signed off on a Nulle Prosque -- that's how bogus this arrest was.

We won't even get into how a group of young people chasing another group of young people with motor vehicles is inherently dangerous, particuary when the first one starts driving down sidewalks to maintain the mandated foot "stay away from" distance, a point I made to absolutely everyone I could think of without avail.

And as to the cadre of lawyers in the Belchertown court, well, I'd say I could do a better job drunk out of my mind than any of them did sober, except that there was one whom I am not sure I ever saw sober...

But Mr. Morse, did I do anything wrong here?

And as to Jason Vassel, the judge was adjunct UMass faculty in the Legal Studies dept at the time -- member of a faculty that had formally voted to oppose the crimnal proseution of Vassell.

Worse, the judge restricted entry into a supposedly public courtroom -- Vassell was allowed to pack the courtroom with his supporters and even though I was a reporter myself at this point, even though I arrived HOURS before the trial and before any of the people who were permitted in the courtroom, I never was.

And if it is an explicit crime to picket a courthouse, which it is, they why the hell was Justice for Jason permuted to routinely do so with total impunity?

This is why I will never again serve in a jury -- it's all bullshit.

Anonymous said...

It looks to me that the Region is paying out tons of money in legal settlements while the Amherst elementary schools are not paying anything out. The elementary schools also have low legal costs. What's going on with the Region?

Anonymous said...

Must we be plagued to our dying day…What about me? I found a note that called me fatty. And another that called me an old crow. Very hurtful.I threw the notes away. Who knew I could've cried all the way to the bank with them.

Anonymous said...

Ed, generally the court officers will prevent clearly deranged or delusional folks from entering the courthouse. This is for the protection of litigants, employees, and the judiciary. So it may be that you were denied entry because you appeared deranged and/or delusional.

Anonymous said...

With Ed, deranged is a Relief! J/K Eddy.

Anonymous said...

Without engaging too much of what Ed has said, I would simply say that the Vassel case is a sore subject for anyone who knows what a prosecutor's true responsibilities are.

Prosecutors do not inspect souls. A victim of a violent crime with a dark heart is still a victim.

The shame here is that the point of view of perfectly responsible and conscientious prosecutors was essentially shouted down. It's a case that raised many difficult issues that are not ever going to be properly discussed in a more calm, clinical setting. It does demonstrate that there is no guarantee in the Valley that all the relevant facts and circumstances will get aired, despite all of our shared pretensions at being more rational and humane than other parts of the country.

I believe that the Commonwealth would have had a fair shot at a conviction at trial with a genuinely impartial jury, a process that I have far more faith in than Ed. But a jury trial was exactly what Mr. Vassel's lawyers tried desperately and successfully to avoid, because the playing field would have been far more level than in the local court of public opinion. They did what they needed to do, what they were hired to do.

Sorry, but he brought it up. It is a lingering sore point not just for me watching from the sidelines (thank God, I wasn't involved) but for other experienced prosecutors here who know about the case, who are undoubtedly eager to forget all about it.

Rich Morse