In the debate on whether or not the school district should have held public hearings on the receipt of $1.2 million in insurance premium refunds, school board member, Peter Bealo, referred to a lawyer’s letter with a legal opinion on the subject. (See the “Comments” section of my previous blog posting.) Since I am a member of the school board, on Monday I asked the board chairman, Nancy Steenson, to make this letter available to me. She told me that I can view the letter at the SAU office next week and no sooner because the superintendent and his administrative assistant are on vacation this week.
My reply: not good enough. I want to see it Wednesday. If other members of the board have seen this letter there is no reason for me not to have the same information without delay. All board members are equal in authority. Here is the issue. The chair and vice chair can receive copies of lawyer letters. The rest of the board may not – or so I am told, though I have never seen this policy in writing. On one other occasion when I wished to read a lawyer’s letter, I had to go into the SAU office, sit with an SAU staff member and read the letter while being supervised to ensure I made no notes, copies or photos of the document. I don’t know if any other school board member ever had to suffer this indignity nor do I know how long this policy has been established, but now I know the chairman and vice chair are not subject to this rule. They are evidently trusted to keep letters confidential while I am not.
The school board chairman is claiming that personnel is an issue this week. This means I will have to wait to be babysat. I am 5’4″, approaching 60 years old and a fast reader. I don’t exactly require a bouncer. Anyone can babysit me and SAU staff can easily obtain another copy of the letter from the lawyer if finding this letter is a problem while Ms. Belcher is away. Given that taxpayers are paying for letters of opinion, why are their elected officials subject to a “read only” policy concerning them? Why on earth are elected officials submitting to a “read only” policy that really means “read only when we feel like showing it to you,” if that’s what it means. Or maybe it’s just me.
ADDENDUM: In an earlier version of this blog I described Peter Bealo as the SB Vice Chair. That was incorrect. He is the Vice Chair of the SAU board. Forgive my brain cramp…. however, this means that Mr. Bealo – an ordinary member of the board such as myself – knew about the existence of a lawyer’s letter on an issue that I raised at a school board meeting, yet I was not told about this letter. Not only did Mr. Bealo know about this letter, he had read it while I didn’t even know it existed until Mr. Bealo spilled the beans in arguing on my blog’s comments section. You’re just not cool unless you’re excluding other people from the party.
Mr. Bealo, did you go to the SAU office to be babysat while reading the letter?
UPDATE July 7, 2014: SB chairman, Nancy Steenson, emailed me today saying I will be permitted to view the lawyer’s letter once Dr. Metzler has had a chance to “review” the letter as he has been out of the office. Did it change since June 28th (when I first learned about it)? Pinocchio Academy is expanding. If you read Mr. Bealo’s comments on my blog posting about the failure of the district to hold a legally required public meeting, he says I would have been able to obtain this letter from Dr. Metzler had I only asked. Of course, Bealo really meant, “had I known to ask,” because knowledge of this letter was kept from me and so it continues. I am contemplating seeking a court order.