The chairman of the Timberlane School Board, Ms. Nancy Steenson, sent me the following email on June 26, 2014. She reprimands me for a number of supposed transgressions. It was addressed to me and the vice chairman of the school board, Kate Delfino. I reporduce it here because I replied to the TRSB email so that all my fellow board members could see my defense when they eventually look at the correspondence folder at the August 28th meeting.
I have been told that you contacted the auditor. I need to inform you that as an individual Board member, you have absolutely no authority to contact entities affiliated with the district, using your elected position as clout, with the intent of obtaining information. You are well aware of the process: if a Board member requests information regarding district business, he or she must go through the Board Chair. As such, any request from you to the auditor is as a private citizen, and is completely inappropriate.
It has also been brought to my attention that you have posted some information regarding the Timberlane Regional School District on your blog which is incorrect. A public hearing to accept a refund from HealthTrust is completely unnecessary, and any claims to the contrary are unfounded. As an elected official, you have a responsibility to report the truth. What you currently have on your blog is not only false, but damaging to the credibility of the school district. I am requesting that you remove your demands for a public hearing and any accusation of wrongdoing on the part of the district. In short, you are indeed wrong, and a public argument showing you why would be unnecessary as well as inappropriate.
Lastly, I have also been informed that you wrote a letter to the editor of the Eagle Tribune, as a member of the Timberlane Regional School Board, which was published on June 19, which also contained false information. Specifically, you stated that the Board was not preparing a press release regarding Dr. Metzler’s evaluation, when in fact, the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Superintendent had decided to do exactly that. Perhaps a letter to the editor explaining your error would be in order.
I sincerely hope that you will refrain from using the authority you seem to feel you have as an individual Board member in the future. In addition, I hope that you will correct any misinformation you have spread via your blog and the newspaper. A formal apology to the district and the Board would also go a long way toward repairing some of the damage you’ve done. Going forward, please remember that the nine members of the Timberlane Regional School Board are powerless as individuals. It is when we come together as a Board that we have authority.
Here is my reply on June 27, 2014
I am writing to the entire board so this will go into the correspondence folder where I expect to see it at next meeting and also so I can post it to my blog. You seem to be under the impression that simply denouncing a person and their assertions is all that is necessary to put an end to their justified claims. You have made numerous factual statements in your letter, only two of which are correct.
1) Yes, I contacted the auditor as an individual member of the board. I have been asking for the auditor’s report since December. Londonderry received their report on Dec. 3, 2013. As of June 26,2014 Timberlane still did not have their report. Any responsible member of the board would be concerned about this exceptional delay. I wrote you at least 4 times about my concern, to get nothing but hollow assurances.
2) I have no authority to contact vendors? I most certainly do. Elected officials are expected to be watchdogs.
3) Board members requesting information about the district must go through the chairman? No. The policy says any questions to Timberlane staff must go through the chairman.
4) As a private citizen it would be “completely inappropriate” to contact the auditor? Only if you live in North Korea. The auditor was in fact delighted to hear from me and answered some extremely relevant questions about the district’s adverse opinion* in the 2012 report.
5) I’ve posted erroneous information on my blog? State specifics. I doubt there will be any forthcoming.
6) If no public hearing is required of the HealthTrust refund, cite me an RSA invalidating RSA 31:95-b which requires that unanticipated moneys, which the LGC refund was, shall be subject to “a prior public hearing on the action to be taken.”
7) Yes, I did write a letter to the Eagle Tribune.
8) You state that “the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Superintendent” had intended to write a press release. Since when does that constitute the SAU board? My statement is factually correct; furthermore, I have learned today that this was a private decision between Jason, Peter Bealo and Dr. Metzler of which the rest of the board was not informed.**
9) Board members have no authority outside of meetings. This is true, yet somehow you feel you have the authority to reprimand me in repeated emails. Conscientious board members nevertheless have responsibilities outside of meetings and it is those responsibilities that I am discharging when I call the auditor to ask why a report is more than 6 months late after I can get no answer from the chairman. Perhaps coincidentally, you will find that the report will be available early next week.
No apology will be forthcoming unless the district can show me why a public hearing is not required when the RSA clearly states that it is. No apology will be forthcoming for calling the auditor. No apology will be forthcoming for writing to a letter to the editor with no factual errors. I doubt that you and Mr. Collins will be apologizing to me either. It is time the board as a whole learns that I will not submit to the continual attempts of you and the administration to limit my sources of information that I need in order to discharge my elected duties.
* In the original email I used the word “letter” when “opinion” is more accurate so I correct it here for the benefit of the public. The auditor’s 2012 letter pointed out that the district is not reporting the value of capital assets and taking depreciation on them, or reporting the cost of post-employment health benefits, all required under the applicable standard accounting practices. The auditor told me about half the school districts they serve also do not do this, so Timberlane is not alone.
** For the background on the press release issue, please see the comments from Peter Bealo and myself on my previous blog posting, “Letter on the SAU Chairman Resignation.” Had I known about an agreement to write a press release, I would have argued for it to be vetted by the entire board and I certainly would not have agreed to have Dr. Metzler write a release on his own evaluation.