Leigh Pelletier, who resigned last month from the Lamoille South school board, asserted that board members were violating the open meeting law by engaging in “serial communications,” by talking about business outside of a public meeting.
She’s included in some of that off-to-the-side correspondence.
A public records request for all emails and text messages between current and former board members and other district officials between Sept. 16 — the first board meeting after a jury sided with fired teacher David Bain — and the Oct. 21 meeting — when the board reaffirmed its Oct. 7 statement of support for Tracy Wrend, the school superintendent — turned up several emails and dozens of text messages.
The correspondence involved the board’s reaction to a federal court jury’s decision that Wrend fired Bain in retaliation, and issued a $150,000 judgment in Bain’s favor.
An Oct. 1 text message exchange between Pelletier and then-board chair Cara Zimmerman, a week before Pelletier quit and 20 days before Zimmerman quit, describes the two trying to come up with a response to reporter Tommy Gardner’s request for comment on the jury’s decision.
“I really feel I need to respond to Tommy in some manner. I don’t think it would be helpful if board members are accused of not being transparent,” Pelletier texts to Zimmerman.
“I’m working on a statement right now,” Zimmerman replies.
Later that day, Pelletier and Zimmerman discuss whether to share with the press that “maintaining an arm’s-length distance” from Wrend is “ultimately helpful to her (that it would be detrimental if it looked like we were all circling the wagon).”
After a few hours, and what appears to be a phone call between Zimmerman and Pelletier, Zimmerman talks about whether the board can terminate Wrend, and whether such talk of firing the superintendent ought to be included in her official statement to the press (it was ultimately not included).
In an Oct. 3 text exchange, Pelletier tells Zimmerman she is “really pissed” about Tommy Gardner’s request for emails to board members from the community, likely because all of the other board members besides her ignored the request because they didn’t know it was an actual request.
“Feels like lazy journalism,” Pelletier wrote.
“Very,” Zimmerman replied.
Other messages are more vague, but suggest reactions to either the lawsuit or Pelletier’s resignation.
A Sept. 17 text message from Morristown member Karen Cleary to vice chair Stephanie Craig — the day after a lengthy executive session about the Sept. 11 jury decision — mentions talking with Zimmerman about “additional details on timing,” but doesn’t go into any more detail.
On Oct, 7, shortly after the board issued its statement of support, Pelletier texted Zimmerman, asking to change her abstention to a “nay” vote in the official meeting minutes in order “to reflect my sentiments accurately.”
On Oct. 9, the day after Pelletier tendered her resignation, Cleary texted Zimmerman, saying she had just talked with Pelletier and wanted to share with Zimmerman “some thoughts about moving forward.” Cleary sent an email the next day to Wrend, asking “to have a conversation with you to discuss some of my thoughts.”
No other correspondence, however, comes close to the anger expressed by Stowe board member Tiffany Donza to Pelletier, shortly after Pelletier resigned.
“You are a coward,” Donza wrote in an Oct. 10 email exchange with Pelletier, in which she blasted Pelletier for quitting, turning over emails that the newspaper requested, and for writing an opinion piece in the paper detailing her reasons for quitting.
“Your actions are disgusting to me,” Donza wrote. “You have lost all credibility in my eyes.”