School Ordered again to provide unredacted minutes for Huber Executive Session

The Supervisor of Records in the Secretary of State's office has again denied the School Committee’s (SC) attempt to withhold sections of public documents related to the executive session minutes in which Elizabeth Huber-O'Connell was apparently terminated, and has, for the second time, ordered the ABRSD (the School) to “provide Mr. Nitschelm with an unredacted copy of the responsive records.”

The prior Order, issued in December 2016, with the School's response defying the Order, can be read here: http://www.actonforum.com/story/school-defies-supervisor-records.

The School has ten days from the date of the new Order, August 24, 2017, to comply. A copy of the three-page ruling by the Supervisor is available here: http://www.actonforum.com/sites/default/files/AG_08242017.pdf.

The Huber case, a very brief history

This saga began sometime in September, 2014, when Ms. Huber-O'Connell, then one of the School’s top administrators and a 30-year veteran of the A-B school system, suddenly and mysteriously stopped working; yet, as Acton Forum found out through public records requests, the School continued to pay her full salary through the end of the 2014-2015 school year. When Acton Forum asked for clarification as to why a top administrator was being paid but performing no services for the District, we were stonewalled. It has been almost three years since Ms. Huber-O'Connell left the school district, and the public still does not know what happened, and why over $200,000 in taxpayer funds was paid to Ms. O'Connell without any public explanation. The School has also spent over $60,000 (so far) in legal fees to try and prevent this public disclosure.

A pattern of the SC’s wanton waste of taxpayers’ money

The SC’s cavalier use of taxpayer funds to pay hundreds of thousand of dollars to a top administrator after she stopped working for the District has recently been repeated when the School effectively forced the resignation of Superintendent Glenn Brand, and refused to disclose the circumstances of his departure, citing Brand's "privacy" as it has done in the Huber case. However, unlike in the prior instance, we know that this privacy claim is bogus and the SC has withheld two Executive Session (ES) meeting minutes in which Brand was forced to resign to protect their own wrongdoing. This was learned when Acton Forum published the unredacted ES minutes from these executive sessions in which Brand was ambushed by a small cabal of School Committee leaders and pressured into resigning under threat of termination or reprimand. (See http://www.actonforum.com/story/unredacted-executive-session-minutes-show-how-former-superintendent-glenn-brand-was-pressured-) and the several additional articles in Acton Forum about the Superintendent’s dismissal.

Protecting an employee’s privacy or hiding the School Committee's misconduct?

The fact that Huber-O'Connell was paid her full salary for 2014-2015 plus an additional $60,000 for part of 2015-2016 per her contract seems to indicate that the SC improperly terminated her employment. Is their stonewalling in the release of the ES minutes just another instance of trying to hide wrongdoing by our elected leaders? The unredacted minutes for the Brand ESs suggest that it is. The August 24, 2017 Order referred to the Supervisor's in camera (unredacted) review of the Huber ES minutes which found that the public's "right to know" sometimes supersedes potential individual privacy rights and found that to be true in this case.

The School Committee can do the right thing and comply with the Order

Acton Forum now believes the appeals process should be over. The Supervisor gave the School’s lawyers two chances to present their case for the redactions and they failed both times. Acton Forum hopes that the SC will stop paying legal fees to continue to try again to delay the release of the unredacted minutes per the Supervisor’s Order (Acton Forum is not going to give up pursuing the public disclosure of the SC’s action). The School should comply with the Order and provide the unredacted minutes to Acton Forum so that this matter can end.

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