“Shut up”, she explained

If you tried to watch the school board meeting tonight, you would have seen the board go into “recess” while I was arguing with Ms. Steenson who would not let me complete my public comment. We did not actually have a recess.  This is the chairman’s favorite dishonesty to the public.  She pulls the plug on the audio and video broadcast when she doesn’t like what is being said.  This is the third time she has done this and never has a recess actually resulted.

Here is the letter that was so incendiary, it could not be broadcast on TV.

Jan. 21, 2016

Dear Mrs. Steenson:

I would like your assistance in clarifying some issues concerning litigation by the Timberlane Regional School District.

  1. Who is our district lawyer?
  2. By what authorization and under what conditions may the superintendent commence legal proceedings?
  3. What is the policy for notifying all school board members of proposed, threatened, pending or filed litigation?
  4. If there is no formal policy, what is the current practice involving notification of all school board members regarding proposed, threatened, pending or filed litigation?
  5. The Federal lawsuit involving Carolyn Morse was not communicated to the school board, nor did we vote to pursue litigation, nor have we been given any updates whatsoever on this litigation; nevertheless, a lawyer hired by the SAU is purporting to represent the district’s assertions in a court of law. When will the school board be briefed on this suit?
  6. Will the school board be asked to vote to approve any settlement? Is there is a policy in this regard?
  7. By what authorization/policy is the superintendent authorized to approve a legal settlement?

I await your answers in writing which I will post on my blog for the benefit of the public. I also ask you to include a breakdown of all the legal costs the superintendent has incurred since his tenure in our district and for what purpose.

Since I know full well no such disclosure will be forthcoming, I am stating now and as a representative of the Town of Sandown, I demand that this district disclose all its legal invoices for 2015 and to date before the school deliberative session on Feb 4, 2016.

As I said, I await your written response.

Donna Green

Readers please don’t be in suspense.  Not one of these questions will be answered and that’s they way the board and the superintendent like it. You are funding a legal fees ATM.

UPDATE Jan. 26, 2016   Chairman Steenson has not so much as acknowledged my letter, let alone responded to it. I will not get a response on any of my questions and I knew I wouldn’t which is why I read the letter in public comment. Perhaps the chairman is too busy watching the tumult in Hampstead where a citizen’s petition to withdraw from SAU 55 is on the ballot.

 

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18 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

18 responses to ““Shut up”, she explained

  1. SML

    I was angry that you were interrupted, yet again, by the chair, who seems to enjoy speaking over you so that you cannot finish a complete thought. How could she know that you were going to speak about ongoing litigation if she wouldn’t allow you to explain?! It’s exasperating.
    At the time you were silenced to go to “recess,” it was Metzler who motioned with his hand to cut you off. He’s in charge, apparently.

  2. Mark Richards

    These wazzocks on your board stand and salute the American flag, just prior to eagerly going about the business of urinating on it. Public accountability… democracy… rule of law: these have no place in the little troika that is your multi-million dollar corruption centre.

    Quite a pathetic display. Worse, a public disgrace.

    That your voters and taxpayers fail to rise up and throw this lot [out] amazes even the partially awake.

    Good luck trying. [edit by DG]

  3. Mark Acciard

    Let the Fascisti continue their oppression. Ben Franklin was correct, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    One of both the School board and local Boards of Selectmen’s favorite tactic is to go into non public for “legal” in order to shield discussion from the public.

    HOWEVER, RSA 91-A:3, II e. Clearly states: “Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph.”

    As you can see, ONLY discussion of active lawsuits, or those threatened in writing are suitable for exemption under this chapter. Questions they ask their lawyer, consultation on recalcitrant public officials. Schemes to harass critics, invoices and bills, ARE ALL PUBLIC INFO!

    Next time Ms. Steenson acts in this capricious manner, ask her on camera what she has to hide from the public?

  4. Cathy

    The questions were regarding policy and authority and valid. The Chair could have asked you not to mention an active suit and still allowed the questions.
    I would think these are questions tax payers/residents of the district would want answers to and the SB “required” to define/answer.

    • The active suit is a matter of public record. There is no issue whatsoever with referencing it in public session. The problem is with the chairman. There will be no answers because the culture under Ms. Steenson’s chairmanship is that questions need never be answered especially from me.

      • Cathy

        That being the case a cautionary comment from the Chair not to discuss “non-public” issues perhaps.
        To shut the conversation down (and turn off your mic) was not warranted in my opinion.
        I assumed she could not answer the questions or defend the actions of the superintendent/lack of oversight by the SB.

      • There was no need to caution me about anything. It was outright procedural bullying.

  5. Mark Acciard

    Look at the bright side, You could have joined the ever growing list of people Metzler has called the police about, or issue “No Trespass” orders against. It has gotten so bad even local police laugh about his antics. The little dictator with the Napoleon complex seems to forget he is the employee, nothing more.

    • You’re kidding, right? I was the first to get the “treatment.” Been there. Done that. Have the legal bills to prove it …. and a very good lawyer, too, which was the silver lining for me.

      • I am really quite tired of the superintendent and his bullying tactics. I wish he would at least hold himself to the same standard as he is suppose to hold the children of the district based on the District’s Code of Conduct/Bullying Policy. He is supposed to be an educational leader and role model. If I was a parent and my child was brought to task for bullying, I may point to Mr Metzler’s behavior toward board members and ask if he would be punished along with my child. Our children are watching what we do far more than what we say. Mr Metzler you should be ashamed. Students should not be learning from your example. You are a toxic blight on our educational landscape.

  6. Sarah Machemer

    Donna,
    The answers, though broad, to your questions can be found by simply reviewing the policy posted on the school district site concerning the use of a School Attorney. This policy was put in place in 1983, and revised in 1990 and again in 2010. If you do not agree with it, I might suggest that as a member of the Policy Committee, you add it to an agenda for review and modification…

    https://public.timberlane.net/sau/trsb/Policies/Section%20B%20-%20School%20Board%20Governance/BDG%20School%20Attorney.pdf

    SCHOOL ATTORNEY
    The Board recognizes that the increasing complexity of school district operations frequently requires procurement of professional legal services. Consequently, the Board shall empower the Superintendent to contract with legal counsel as deemed appropriate.

    A decision to seek legal advice or assistance in behalf of the school District shall normally be made by the Superintendent or by persons specifically authorized by the Superintendent. Such action shall occur as it is consistent with approved District policy or standard practice and meets an obvious need of the District. It may also take place as a consequence of formal Board direction.

    Many types of instances of legal assistance to the District may be considered routine and not necessitating specific Board approval or prior vote. For example, the Superintendent may consult with the school attorney to interpret statutory requirements or regulations, prepare or review contracts and seek legal opinions regarding other District issues. However, when the administration concludes that unusual types or amounts of professional legal service may be required, Board authorization for such service shall be promptly requested.
    ***
    While this does not name our current district attorney, it does state that the Superintendent has long had the authority to utilize the services of the district attorney without getting permission from the SB every single time he decides he needs to. The last sentence does state that Board authorization for unusual types or amounts of professional legal service shall be requested, it still leaves that decision up to the administration, not the SB, to determine when authorization in needed. SO… again, if you feel the Superintendent has too much leeway in when and how often legal services are used, use your position as a member of the policy committee to try to create more definition and limitations, rather than tossing a grenade into a the middle of a school board meeting, when really this is a Policy Committee issue.

    • Did you notice the word “litigation” anywhere in this policy? Nope. This is not a policy committee issue, it is a board issue. The board should be directing the policy committee to put restrictions on the policy. Since the Policy committee is made up mostly of administrators, you can be assured it is not going to change.

  7. Sarah Machemer

    Ok, I am honestly looking for clarification… no snark intended… honestly. You state that the School Board should be giving the Policy Committee directives, to modify the current policy in order to put additional restrictions in place; and since litigation is not included in the current policy, the modifications should include directions on how to handle such situations.

    However… the mission statement of the Policy Committee has it the opposite. It states (which I know you know, because you are a member, but for your audience, I will include it) :”The TRSD Policy Committee maintains existing and creates new district policies. The Policy Committee recommends policies and revisions to the entire TRSD School Board for their approval..” So, if the mission of your own committee is to present the policies and revisions to the board for approval, how is the board suppose to direct the committee to revise existing policies, when that is the very job of the policy committee?

    Sometimes, change takes time and effort, and more often then not you have to work within the system to create that change. Has the district spent a lot of money over the last couple of years on legal fees, absolutely. Do I believe that this policy should be reviewed to discuss whether or not specific wording concerning litigation and the surrounding costs should be added, yes, I think it certainly wouldn’t hurt. But, I also wonder if these excessive costs will continue to be an issue beyond the year 2018.

    The fact is, the policy, as it is written right now, does provide the supt. to utilize the services of the district attorney as needed. And, currently, he needs to contact the lawyer more often than he has had to in to past due to a large number of law suits brought up against the district. If you don’t believe the current policy will be ever be amended or revised, why not work with other members of your committee to create a new policy that will address cases of litigation? Work within the system to mitigate change, explain in a professional, non-combative way, why you feel a policy addressing the issue is needed, and why (and how) we as a district would benefit from such a policy.

    There are times where I have a very difficult time appreciating the urgency of your message, and even the validity of it, because of the way it is delivered. And, unfortunately, Thursday evening was one of those times, even though I see your point now, at the time I simply couldn’t.

    • Perhaps if the chairman let me finish my remarks the importance of them would be more apparent. Thank you for writing. I am not personally responsible for the flurry of law suits against the district. Sandown/Danville had nothing to do with me at all. The federal suit with the teacher – nothing to do with me. The issue with Josh Horns and the AG’s office – nothing to do with me. I am responsible for a Right to Know case only and the fact that I was forced to resort to the courts for public information is a usable form is an outrage in itself. Rather than criticize me, you should be seriously wondering why it is so important to the district to keep this from all of us and using your tax dollars to do so.

  8. SAS

    She told you to shut up? Was that when the audio was turned off?

    • No, she shouted over me and insisted I stop reading my letter. I continued anyway, talking over her. The chairman explains things by shutting people up, that’s the meaning of my title. (I’m trying to be funny…. and failing 😉

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