EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 12, 2012

School Dept. refuses to identify employee escorted from school

By Douglas Moser dmoser@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — The School Department yesterday refused to release the name, salary and job title of the employee who was led out of a grammar school during school hours in June by a police officer.

A request submitted to the School Department by The Eagle-Tribune on Oct. 2 requesting that employee’s name, job title, length of employment and current job status were all denied in writing by Superintendent Judith Scannell yesterday.

The request for the name and job status was denied because of a personnel exemption in the state public records laws, and the request for the salary and job title was denied because the employee’s name was not provided in the request.

However, Scannell wrote in an email after the denial letter was given to the Tribune that as of July 1, the staff member was no longer employed with the School Department.

Scannell, who said she cannot comment on the matter because it is personnel related, said she was acting on the advice of school counsel, Michael J. Maccaro of Murphy Hess Toomey & Lehane LLP.

A phone message left with Maccaro at his office was not returned yesterday afternoon.

“To the extent that the Methuen Public Schools possess records that are responsive to your request, they fall within an exemption from the definition of public records under (Massachusetts General Law chapter 4, section 7, clause 26[c]), and therefore they are not subject to disclosure as they relate to personnel records,” Scannell wrote in the letter. “Furthermore, while salary information and job titles generally are not exempted from mandatory disclosure under the law, you have failed to identify a specifically named individual or class of individuals for which you seek this information.”

The statute she cited defines what a public record is and lists exemptions, and states that “personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” are exempt from the definition of a public record.

That exemption means that the School Department is not required to release such information, however the statute does not prohibit the School Department from releasing that information.

Only one employee was escorted out of Timony Grammar School on June 5. The employee was escorted out by a police officer and principal Timothy Miller, according to police and school officials.

Scannell said at the time that the employee was placed on paid administrative leave after she received an “allegation of a violation of school policy and procedure” on the morning of June 5.

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