Has there been a coup in Region 1? The public needs to take back the Region 1 Board of Education Reply

Has there been a coup in Region 1?
The public needs to take back the Region 1 Board of Education

By Gale Courey Toensing

Ruth Epstein’s story and comments on the Region One Report at http://bit.ly/16QT9Lv have taken the Region 1 story a giant step forward.

It is becoming increasingly clear with every new story that the Region 1 Board of Education — the body with the statutory power to act on behalf of the towns it represents – has been locked out of the decision-making process by the board chairman and majority in collaboration with the top two administrators.

Below is a series of four emails that would normally not see the light of day (because no one has asked for them) — but they are public documents and I’m making them public because even though the public proved it has a pretty good idea of what’s going on by voting down the budget three times, it’s time to shine an even brighter light on what the board leadership and the top administrators are doing with taxpayer money and the decisions they are making behind closed doors. The final straw prompting this posting was Chairman Jonathan Moore telling the board on July 2 (bottom email) that “there is no action [in the lawsuit] to update” – a clear lie given Ruth Epstein’s revelation that Lucille Paige’s administrative leave has been extended. Thank goodness for our still independent media!

These emails and Ruth Epstein’s story leave me with these enduring questions:

• Since Lucille Paige’s administrative leave and its extension were never presented to the board of education, who agreed to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave and who authorized its extension?
• Who authorized the payment of Lucille Paige’s full salary, benefits and board clerk stipend while she’s on leave?
• Who signed the inevitable documents memorializing the agreement for Lucille Paige’s leave until June 30 and its extension until October 1?
• If the documents were signed on behalf of the Board of Education without board knowledge and approval does that void them as unauthorized or even fraudulent? (To be clear, this is not about the merits of the leave; it’s about the board’s legal authority being improperly – perhaps illegally — taken over.)
• What other legal documents have been signed without board knowledge or authorization?

These unauthorized actions by a board chairman acting unilaterally, as did his predecessor, with the support of two other board members who unquestioningly support the administrators, may put the board and the school district in a vulnerable situation legally especially with one lawsuit already pending. The taxpayers and citizens of the region may have to do more than vote the budget down; they may have to create their own virtual Tahrir Square here in Region 1 in order to take back their school board.


—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Phil Hart(Reg1) ; Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Marilyn Yerks ; Laura Freund ; Jonathan Moore
Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 9:56 PM
Subject: Administrative leave

I got your phone message from Friday saying that Lucille Paige has been put on administrative leave. Who made the decision to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave? Who decided that she should go on administrative leave rather than the superintendent, who is being sued? Even if Lucille Paige agreed to the leave, this could give the appearance that the board is taking sides in the litigation, which we are not supposed to do.
The decision to put an employee on administrative leave is one for the board to make, not for you or any individual to make. This administrative leave should have been a suggestion for the board to consider. It should have been discussed by the board and ultimately determined by the board. You have once again exceeded your authority by acting alone and leaving the board out of the decision-making process, and by doing so you have deprived every town in the regional school district of its right to equal representation and participation. It is simply not acceptable for you to continue to act unilaterally in this way.
(The ellipses represent a redundant section that I redacted):

—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Jonathan Moore ; Laura Freund ; Marilyn Yerks ; Scooter Tedder ; Phil Hart(Reg1)
Cc: gbrochu@goodwin.com.didtheyreadit.com
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2013 12:33 PM
Subject: Re: Administrative leave

Board members:
I just received a phone call from Phil Hart in response to my email below [my email above of May 19]. In essence, this was the conversation:
He said that I have to stop doing what I’m doing — meaning stop expressing my opinion and writing emails.
He said it wasn’t his decision to put Lucille Paige on administrative leave, that it was an arrangment made by the lawyers and that Lucille Paige had agreed to it. I said regardless of whether Lucille Paige had agreed to it, the proposal to put her on administrative leave was a decision for the board to make, not him or laywers, and it should have come to us.
He said Lucille Paige was being paid her salary and also her board clerk stipend. I said then it was especially important for the board to discuss and approve the leave since it’s an expenditure and that he had exceeded his authority by making the decision without the board.
He said again that he didn’t make the deicison, that it was an administrative decision, and that only the administration could put somone on administrative leave. I asked what he meant by “an administrative decision” and he replied the superintendent. I said the superintendent does not have the authority in any case to put anybody on administravive leave without board approval but especially in this case when she is the subject of the lawsuit and the person put on administrative leave is the person suing her. He then said maybe she delegated her authority. I said she doesn’t have the authority to delegate authority that she doesn’t have.
I repeated what I said in the email — that he has no right to act alone and by acting alone he deprived every town of its right — by law — to representation and I told him my town leaders will not be happy to hear this.
. . . .
. . . .
What is actually dangerous — as is proven by the current situation — is not the exercise of my right to express a dissident opinion, but efforts to hide and/or obscure information from the board and the public. What’s dangerous is the way important board decisions are made by a single individual or a few individuals in the dark behind closed doors rather than the entire board in transparent public votes as required by law. It’s beyond time to stop this foolishness and for the board to reclaim its rightful role and responsibilities.
~~ Gale

—– Original Message —–
From: Gale Toensing
To: Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Phil Hart ; Laura Freund ; Jonathan MOORE ; jmoore@region1schools.org.didtheyreadit.com
Cc: Gary Brochu
Sent: Monday, July 01, 2013 3:07 PM
Subject: agenda additions, pending litigation — this email is a public document

Are we meeting on Wednesday, July 10 at 6 p.m. as suggested? When will the meeting agenda/warning be sent?
Please add to the agenda the following two items:
— election of a board vice chair
— update on pending litigation
With regard to the update on the pending litigation, I believe we — the entire board — need to closely monitor the pending lawsuit brought against the superintendent in order to perform our fiduciary duties and statutory function in service to the Region 1 School District. Toward that end I request that our board attorney ask the lawyers representing all litigants that he be kept apprised of factual developments in the case and to share that information with the entire board under reasonable and usual nondisclosure arrangements. I believe it’s in the interest of the litigants to cooperate with this request as the complaint alleges matters involving work relationships in the Regional School Services Center and both parties are employees of the board.
I request that our board attorney brief us — the entire board — in executive session at the beginning of regular or special board meerings and at other times he deems appropriate and share any information that has been provided to him including documents, deposition transcripts, oral briefings and other information. I also request that our board attorney advise and update us to the best of his ability at these sessions on his view of the possibility of the Region 1 Board of Education being included as a defendant.

As the Region 1 Board of Education, we must do everything possible to protect the school district from damages and costs that may arise from litigation now and in the future. We also must ensure a proper work environment. Accordingly, we need to monitor this litigation closely and stand ready to take whatever actions may be necessary to protect the integrity of our school system, the Region 1 work environment and our constituents.

Gale Courey Toensing
Falls Village representative

—– Original Message —–
From: Jonathan Moore
To: Gale Toensing
Cc: Scooter Tedder ; Marilyn Yerks ; Phil Hart ; Laura Freund ; Gary Brochu
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 12:04 PM
Subject: Re: agenda additions, pending litigation — this email is a public document

Dear Gale,
I have not added either item for the following reasons: First, the agenda was formed and then sent. In any case, the secretary is the acting vice chair as per State statute and Robert’s rules. Any election should wait until the yearly election. As for the litigation, Mr. Brochu is not available on the 10th. Furthermore, there is no action to update . So, it would be wasteful of the region’s money to have him come and tell us nothing. Both attorneys will contact us when there is a decision to be made. Until then it is in their hands in terms of the process.

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