What the School Board did behind closed doors
Girard calls Beaudry out for allegations against board members
MANCHESTER, NH March 30, 2103 6 PM–It is unusual for someone in the news business to do what I’m about to do. As you may know, my sources of information are excellent and I take care not only to confirm any information we report, but also to protect my sources.
Because of this, I was confident when reporting that a motion would be made for the Board of School Committee to reject all finalists for the superintendent’s position. That post on Oh My BLOG not only touched of a political firestorm that got me the proverbial earful from the very unhappy Mayor Ted Gatsas, but it also proved that our sources were spot on yet again given that the school board did, in fact, vote to continue the search.
That night, March 26th, I posted the following on facebook:
All Mayor Ted Gatsas would say is that “all we did in public session was vote to seal the minutes and adjourn.” Several members left without comment, some appearing disturbed. Others simply said “no comment for the press,” even on questions as basic as “did you at least make a decision?”
In a follow up to the decision question, I made the following statement to one member of the board: “So, there was no decision then tonight.” The reply was “Oh, I didn’t say that.”
So it would appear that a decision was made, but, for whatever reason, the board has decided to keep us all in the dark.
As soon as we know something, we’ll let you know…stay tuned!
What I didn’t post was that there was a rather audible shouting match that broke out between Ward 9 Committeeman Arthur Beaudry and Mayor Gatsas. I also didn’t report what it was about because I am fiercely protective of my sources and didn’t want to share anything that might indicate from where my information came for the “rejecting all finalists” report. As that report continues to reverberate and fallout from the board’s decision continues to come, I decided it is necessary to share what I heard that night and pieced together from various comments made to me both that night and in subsequent conversations with several members of the board.
First, you need to know that what I’m about to tell you is, in my never to be humble opinion, not something that should be protected by the non-public session. In fact, I don’t believe the board acted legally to seal the minutes of that meeting. Nothing is gained by that sealing and I will seek to have those minutes unsealed in a Right to Know Request.
The shouting match between Beaudry and Gatsas arose as a result of our report predicting a motion to reject all finalists would be brought. In the meeting, Beaudry accused various members of the board of leaking that information to yours truly. Gatsas raised his voice in defense of the accused, including himself. There were accusations back and forth and threats of invoking the city’s conduct committee to discipline wayward members. Beaudry, who had once been brought before the conduct board by former Mayor Bob Baines, made it known he would hire Concord Attorney Chuck Douglas to represent him. The shouting, which spanned about five minutes, wasn’t pleasant. And, yes, I was eaves dropping. It was hard not to.
After the meeting ended, several members of the board mentioned my facebook and blog posts regarding our prediction. One member said wryly while passing by “next time you go on vacation, stay there.” Clearly, this was confirmation of what I heard through shouted behind the board room door.
No member would comment on the action taken by the board. When asked by myself and other members of the press, what action was taken, none would answer. Mayor Gatsas would only say the actions they took in public were to seal the minutes and adjourn the meeting. “No comments for the press,” was the refrain repeated by those members who chose to acknowledge they were asked. Not all responded.
“So, there was no action taken,” I asked to one member of the board. The response was “I didn’t say there was no action taken.” I read that, rightly, as confirmation that no candidate had been chosen. However, because I could not specifically confirm that, I chose not to report that. The next day, I made several phone calls in search of a statement from the board. My calls appeared to have prompted the drafting of the statement that was released later that day.
Here’s where things get unusual.
I will state for the record that the sources who informed me that there would be a motion to dismiss all finalists were not members of the school board. In an attempt to confirm the information, I made several calls. As a result, I spoke with Ward 5 Committeeman Ted Rokas. As chairman of the Superintendent Search Committee, I wanted to know if he’d heard that information and would comment. He stated he’d not heard that information and would not comment on it. I spoke with mayoral assistant Samantha Piatt. She had not heard the information and didn’t believe that Mayor Gatsas had either. Mayor Gatsas was unavailable at the time I called.
Because Beaudry apparently accused both, among other members, of leaking information to me, I thought it important to clear their names. No other school board member returned my calls on the matter.
The risk in sharing this information is it could narrow the potential sources and possibly isolate who it came from. Inasmuch as Beaudry angrily accused others of leaking the information, it would seem that he, himself, was aware of the plan and may have actually been part of it. Since none of the school board members I spoke with the day after the meeting would say much about what transpired in the meeting, except to confirm that my understanding of the shouting I heard was correct, it’s impossible to know.
I will continue to responsibly report confirmed information from credible sources and will continue to guarantee their confidentiality. The time may come again when I feel it necessary to clear an accused source of treachery. If I can do so without jeopardizing that source, as I believe I’ve done in this case, I will ensure that folks like Arthur Beaudry don’t get away with making random or blanket accusations for their own political purposes.
The trust you place in me to get it right is sacred and I honor it. I have written this in defense of it and all those who work with me to make sure that you know what’s going on as best I can.