Timing: Morse Settlement and Metzler Raise

Below you can see the slow and painful release of public information versus the timing of the superintendent’s raise and bonus.  (As of July 1, 2016, Superintendent Metzler will be making  $161,000 which includes a bonus for 16/17 of $6,000.)*

The Morse settlement was fully settled and executed on April 28, 2016.  The terms of the settlement became public thanks to Danville Selectman, Shawn O’Neil, who made a Right to Know request of SAU 55 (and threatened to sue if the information was not forthcoming).

  • April 28, 2016   Morse settlement fully finalized. The letter dated April 28 from our insurer, Primex, which enclosed the settlement documents, states in part, “Persuant to RSA 91-A:4, VI, …these documents must be retained on file at the Superintendent’s office for no less than 10 years from the date of settlement.” Neither the SAU board nor the Timberlane School Board was told the terms of the settlement or that the documents were available for their inspection.
  • May 12, 2016  Without knowing the terms of the settlement, the SAU board votes in non-public to award Dr. Metzler a 3.75% raise and a 4% performance bonus (the maximum bonus allowed by contract). The board votes to seal the non-public minutes. The meeting was not televised or recorded and no member of the public was in attendance as the discussion was largely in non-public. In public session towards the end of the meeting and after I had left, the chairman announced the raise and bonus to dead cameras and a room absent an audience. I had left the meeting early from a sense of futility. Significantly, no one subsequently disclosed that the raise and bonus had been announced in public session.
  • May 12, 2016  Shawn O’Neil’s submits a Right to Know request to SAU 55 for settlement information
  • May 23. 2016 settlement documents are made available to Mr. O’Neil
  • May 24, 2016  Mr. O’Neil posts settlement documents on SpeakoutTimberlane Facebook page. This is the first time they are seen by the public and thereby allows board members to learn of the settlement terms.
  • May 24, 2016  Mary-Jo Thomas Conlon emails SAU 55 requesting public minutes of the May 12 SAU meeting. Her undisclosed purpose was to learn if the superintendent was awarded a raise at the May 12 meeting.
  • May 25, 2016  Mrs. Belcher replies to Ms. Conlon that her Right to Know request for the SAU meeting minutes are available for pickup at the SAU office during regular hours for 50 cents a page.
  • May 25, 2016 Ms. Conlon replies to Mrs. Belcher that the request for minutes was not a Right to Know request and that she had previously been sent draft minutes by email or given a link to where they were posted online. She asked why the protocol had changed. She also noted that her work hours preclude her from getting to the SAU office during their [far more restrictive] business hours.
  • May 26, 2016  Ms. Conlon learns that another SAU meeting was scheduled for June 15. She emails Mrs. Belcher saying she was willing to wait until June for the draft minutes of the May 12 SAU meeting to be approved and published online “…rather than losing a days pay or having to find someone else who might be available to pick-up for me.”
  • June 15, 2016 SAU board approves public minutes disclosing Superintendent Metzler’s raise and bonus. My motion to unseal the non-public minutes of May 12 went without a second.
  • June 16, 2016  This blog is first to inform the public of the superintendent’s raise and bonus – more than a month after it had been voted.

Conclusions

The terms of the settlement with Mrs. Morse were final and subject to public knowledge well before the SAU board was to take up the superintendent’s evaluation and annual raise and bonus – yet this information was not given to the board. It took a Right to Know request to obtain information vital to the board’s business. Further, a citizen, trying to understand the workings of her government, (was the superintendent given a raise?) makes a simple request for draft minutes and is told it is a Right to Know request and that she must upend her productive life to obtain these minutes at an additional monetary cost to her.

SAUs were conceived as service organizations.  SAU 55 has become a self-serving organization that controls information for its own purposes.  It stymies oversight by elected officials – should any of them come to understand their duty and obtain the courage to act on that understanding – and thwarts those who want to understand its functioning.

*In an earlier uncorrected post I mistakenly included the bonus in the base salary figure.  This was an error.  Dr. Metzler’s total compensation of salary and bonus is $161,000 for 16/17.

To see the salaries of other superintendents in New Hampshire: Administration Salaries as per DOE

Here is the email exchange between Mary-Jo Thomas Conlon and SAU 55 regarding a simple request for draft SAU meeting minutes. (Please note that nothing in this post or in my belief holds Mrs. Belcher responsible for the SAU’s position and action in the emails that follow.)

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon
Date: Tue, May 24, 2016 at 6:19 PM
Subject: Meeting minutes
To: trsb@timberlane.net

I  would like to request the meeting  minutes for the SAU  55  board meeting of May 12, 2016.

Thank-you

Mary-Jo Thomas Conlon [address redacted]

From: <pbealo@comcast.net>
Date: Tue, May 24, 2016 at 7:55 PM
Subject: Fwd: Meeting minutes
To: Jason Cipriano <cip@usna2002.com>, mjthomas
Cc: “Belcher, Catherine” <catherine.belcher@timberlane.net>

Mrs. Conlon,

You need to discuss this with the Chair of the SAU Board, copied on this email.

While I am the Chair of the Timberlane School Board, I am just another member of the SAU Board.

Best Regards,

Peter Bealo

x
From: MJ Thomas-Conlon
Date: Tue, May 24, 2016 at 8:09 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Meeting minutes
To: Peter Bealo <pbealo@comcast.net>
I looked for a separate email listing for SAU and was unable to locate.
I previously used the TRSB email to make the same sort of request, which was answered by both you and Cathy Belcher, so not sure what needs to be “discussed”?
Could you provide the correct email to use, please?
Thanks…mjc

x

From: <pbealo@comcast.net>
Date: Tue, May 24, 2016 at 9:00 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Meeting minutes
To: mjthomasciprianoj@hampstead.k12.nh.us

I copied Jason Cipriano, SAU Chair, on my first and on this email.
I thought the word “discussed” was just a benign polite term. No hidden meaning.

Best Regards
Peter Bealo

x

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomasc
Date: Tue, May 24, 2016 at 9:02 PM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Meeting minutes
To: Peter Bealo <pbealo@comcast.net>

Sorry it confused me…lol…translation: ask him lol…..thanks…mjc

x

From: Belcher, Catherine <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>
Date: Wed, May 25, 2016 at 9:57 AM
Subject: Meeting minutes
To: “mjthomas
Cc: Peter Bealo <pbealo@comcast.net>, Jason Cipriano <cip@usna2002.com>

Please allow this email to serve as confirmation of receipt of your right-to-know request for SAU Board meeting minutes of May 12, 2016 meeting.  A draft (unapproved) copy of these minutes (public session only) are immediately available for pick up (hardcopy or electronic version) at the Superintendent’s Office during normal business hours.  The cost for hardcopies is $0.50 per page; there are 2 pages to these minutes. See attached Right-to-Know procedure for securing electronic copies.

On another RTK matter, please allow this email to also serve as a reminder of a previous request made by you on July 7, 2015 for a copy of the May 20, 2015 SAU Board meeting minutes.  Those materials (2 pages) are still awaiting your pick up.

Thank you

x

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomas
Date: Wed, May 25, 2016 at 10:15 AM
Subject: Re: Meeting minutes
To: “Belcher, Catherine” <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>

Good Morning Mrs Belcher,
Actually, as stated in my email, it was a simple request, not a “RTK” , which is what Mr Bealo had previously informed me to do, simply ask for the minutes, or link to where available in draft form, before official minutes are approved and posted, and the information would be sent/linked.
My request last May , after some confusion, was answered in that way, so I followed that suggested procedure this time. I had sent you a reply in July 2015 as well, explaining that Mr Bealo had already replied and clarified matters and  the link you provided answered my question/request, so there was no need for additional documents.
Has recommended process changed now? Are minutes no longer available via a link? I work 8 to 5 in Massachusetts, so it’s really quite impossible for me to visit the SAU building during the hours you are open.
Mary-Jo Thomas Conlon

x

From: Belcher, Catherine <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>
Date: Wed, May 25, 2016 at 2:56 PM
Subject: Meeting minutes
To: “mjthomas

Dear Mrs. Conlon,

Thank you for your email.  The protocol for the posting of minutes for both the SAU Board and the Timberlane School Board is to post them to a public online folder after they have been approved by their respective boards.  Kindly note this does not render the unapproved/draft minutes unavailable to the public; they are just not available online. Anyone may request a copy of the draft minutes or may inspect them in person as provided under RSA 91-A.

Although we understand your limitations for coming to the Superintendent’s office during normal business hours due to your work schedule, your lack of availability does not affect the availability of the documents. They are available at the Superintendent’s office as prescribed by law.

I hope this information is helpful and, as previously stated, the unapproved/draft minutes of May 12, 2016 are immediately available at the Superintendent’s office in both electronic and hardcopy format.

As to your previous RTK request, you are correct in your recollection of its status.

Have a good afternoon,

Cathy

x

Ms Belcher,
Thanks for your response. Could you tell me when this protocol,was changed?
At least in July 2015, and perhaps later, draft minutes were posted online, as I received the link via email to access them. I did check the website and found no reference to draft minutes.
We will have to agree to disagree that it doesn’t limit the availability of public documents, since they could easily be posted, linked and emailed, as was previously done.
The change in protocol, limits availability to non- working citizens or those who have flexibility to take time off. Is someone else allowed to pick-up or copy the documents, even though I made the request?

Mary-Jo Thomas-Conlon

x

From: Belcher, Catherine <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>
Date: Thu, May 26, 2016 at 11:03 AM
Subject: RE: Meeting minutes
To: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomasc
Yes, you may send someone else in your place to pick up the requested information.  Our office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-4:00pm.  Our office is closed on Monday, May 30th in observance of Memorial Day.

Cathy

x

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomas
Date: Thu, May 26, 2016 at 4:06 PM
Subject: Re: Meeting minutes
To: “Belcher, Catherine” <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>
Ms Belcher,
I just noticed that another SAU meeting has been added for June, that wasn’t appearing on the calendar when I checked the website. At that time the next meeting was shown as  October, which is why I requested the minutes now. I can certainly wait until they are approved in early June rather than losing a days pay or having to find someone else who might be available to pick-up for me.
It’s unfortunate that the protocol has been change, to make access and availability more difficult. Could you please send a link or reference to where I might find notice, date and details of the change? I’ve looked again on the website, since asking previously, and still can not find any mention directly related to the minutes.

Thanks in advance, sorry for the extended back and forth, but I was unaware that the process Mr Bealo had previously suggested I follow was no longer acceptable.

Mary-Jo Thomas-Conlon

x

(Note from MJ: this email goes unanswered until I contact again on 6/7, my final email in the chain received no reply at all.)

x

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomasc
Date: Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 12:14 PM
Subject: Re: Meeting minutes
To: “Belcher, Catherine” <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>

Ms Belcher,

Perhaps my prior email slipped through the cracks, but I am still waiting for a response to my question about when the protocol for receiving draft minutes changed and where I might find that linked or referenced?
I”m assuming that both public and non-public minutes from the prior SAU meeting will be approved (usually) at the upcoming, June 16th meeting, could you tell me how soon after that they are posted online?
Thanks,

Mary-Jo Thomas-Conlon

Danville NH

x
From: Belcher, Catherine <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>
Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 1:26 PM
Subject: RE: Meeting minutes
To: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomas
Thank you for your email, Mrs. Conlon.  In response to the posting of approved minutes, I try to post them within a day or two after the meeting in which they were approved; however, the timing of this may be affected by other responsibilities at hand.

Regarding a change in protocol to the posting of draft minutes, I do not recall any change. The SAU Board and Timberland School Board do not post their draft minutes to a public site.

In either case (approved or in draft form), the minutes are available for public inspection at the Superintendent’s Office as provided by statute.

Enjoy your afternoon,

Cathy

x

From: MJ Thomas-Conlon <mjthomas
Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 2:14 PM
Subject: Re: Meeting minutes
To: “Belcher, Catherine” <Catherine.Belcher@timberlane.net>

Ms Belcher,
Thanks for the information on the time frame for posting approved minutes. There has definitely been a change in “protocol” related to receiving/posting draft minutes. As I stated in my previous emails, related to this request, I was told by Peter Bealo (7-10-15 email) that they were available by request and could be sent to me or viewed on SAU website. This was reiterated by your email (7-13-15) that provided me with a link to view the posted draft minutes of 5-20-15 SAU board meeting, posted on the SAU website. That seemed like best practice, in my opinion.

I think stakeholders should be made aware when such changes happen, why they came about, and the new “protocol” to receive information that is requested in the most transparent and accessible way. Instead, it’s unfortunate that this change makes it more difficult, rather than easier to view public information, and I haven’t been able to find any reference or answer to the when/why the change took place.

Mary-Jo Thomas-Conlon

Danville, NH

 

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

One response to “Timing: Morse Settlement and Metzler Raise

  1. MJ

    And I still don’t know the answer as to when or why this “protocol” changed! It seemed like such a simple question to me, I never imagined instead of a simple answer, I’d be told it never happened (despite evidence to the contrary) by both the SAU and one of my SB representatives!
    I honestly don’t get it! I also don’t understand why the discussion and votes on the huge raise and bonus for the superintendent are being kept secret!

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