Just about batting zero: that’s how I would characterize Timberlane’s legal success in recent years.
Here’s a list of legal entanglements since I’ve been on the school board, (March 2014):
- School Board Rules: written by Rob Collins, challenged by NH ACLU. TRSB backed down entirely on challenged provisions, and a year later eliminated the “rules” altogether. SB Rules 2014 SB Rules 2015
- Failure to hold a public hearing on receipt of HealthTrust return of surplus: Cathy Gorman, Arthur Green and I claimed a public hearing should have been held to accept unanticipated revenue. The district provided a lawyer’s letter of opinion touted to support the district’s position. When read closely, the letter in fact confirmed our position that a public hearing was legally required. See Hearing Required
- Criminal complaint against Green: The superintendent filed a complaint against me with the Plaistow Police after an innocuous exchange of words I had with the superintendent’s assistant. A No Trespass order was issued against me by the superintendent. The police did not find grounds to charge me. Once my lawyer became involved, the police investigation was closed and the “no trespass” was withdrawn. I was publicly vindicated by the security video that had been withheld by the district to that point. Lehmann slams police Lehmann slams SAU 55
- Refusal to establish a withdrawal committee: Immediately after the 2015 election when Sandown voted to study withdrawal from the district, the SAU issued a press release stating in part: “First, the study itself and all of its responsibilities belong to the town of Sandown. It will be up to the town to establish a committee and conduct the actual study. The composition of the committee is outlined in the statute.
Second, any costs associated with the study shall be borne by the town of Sandown as this is a town endeavor and no funds were appropriated in the article.” The district eventually had to acknowledge the law and did indeed establish a withdrawal committee and did vote funds for research. No Study from TRSD!
- Danville and Sandown v. TRSD: the judge ruled the towns did not have standing to sue. He did not rule on the substantive issues underlying the suit. Neither party can claim a victory in that case.
- Timberlane’s insistence that Danville BOS member, Josh Horns step down from Timberlane’s Budget Committee (or Danville BOS): the state’s Attorney General’s office determined there was no provision in the law being violated, or conflict of office, in having a sitting selectman serve on a regional school district budget committee. No Incompatibility of Office
- Morse v. TRSD and SAU55: Settlement by mediation. Although the school board has not been told any details concerning the settlement apart from the fact that there was a settlement, one lawyer I know personally has told me that insurance companies agree to settlements only when they believe they can’t win in court. To do otherwise is to encourage frivolous suits against insured entities. Now I know nothing about this case in particular, but there are two reasons I think the district cannot count this as a win:
1) The fact that the terms of the settlement have not been made public or disclosed to the school board;
2) The fact that the discipline against Ms. Morse was publicly rescinded in an agreed public statement following the mediation: “The Timberlane Regional School District honors the rights of employees guaranteed by the Constitution to express themselves in their private lives on matters of public concern except in instances where that speech is unprotected. The discipline imposed on Carolyn Morse arising out of her Facebook post is rescinded. To the extent that discipline was perceived as an infringement of her rights, it was not intended as such but rather was intended to protect the privacy rights of District employees.”
- Green v. TRSD and SAU55: On appeal to NH’s Supreme Court, the district lost and was required to produce documents in a searchable electronic form.Supreme Court decision2016034green
Pretty dismal record for a district with multiple lawyers on speed dial. For years I have been calling for the school board and the SAU board to exercise more control over the superintendent’s authority to engage legal counsel and to undertake legal action. Would things improve if the SAU had to get board approval before spending our money on legal battles that in some cases seem politically motivated and are seldom won?