Neal Colligan vs Tredyffrin Easttown School District in Right-to-Know Case: Follow-Up

right_to_know_squareOn April 23, 2015, Neal Colligan was notified that he won his appeal with the PA Office of Open Records (OOR) in the Colligan v. Tredyffrin-Easttown School District case, Docket No: AP 2015-0442.  If you recall, Colligan’s appeal stemmed from the District’s denial in his right-to-know request regarding the five closed meetings of the TE School Board between November 2014 – January 2015, concerning the Affordable Care Act and the employment changes of the District’s aides and paraeducators.

As a result of the OOR findings, the District was required to provide all requested Affordable Care Act records from the secret Executive Sessions withing 30 days. To comply with OOR, the District did make public on the website, some of the background ACA materials used in the meetings.

The District was given 30 days to appeal the OOR ruling but after discussion between Colligan and School Board member Virginia Lastner, an agreement between the sides was reached. Although the Board was unwilling to make the agreement public, Neal offered the signed communication and certification by Art McDonnell for Community Matters along with his thoughts on the Right-to-Know process and agreement from the School Board.

Below is his email and the signed letter from the TE School Board. Board members Kris Graham, Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner, Peter Motel, Scott Dorsey, Jim Bruce, Kevin Buraks and Karen Cruickshank signed the letter. It is noted that because school board member Liz Mercogliano was not allowed to attend the Executive Sessions and participate in the Affordable Care Act discussion, she subsequently did not vote on the outsourcing of the aides and paraeducators, and therefore chose not to sign the letter.

Pattye,

Attached is a letter the members of the TESB and I signed last night ending the RTK request in relation to the aides/paras Executive Meetings and the directive from the OOR to produce documents/information.

As we’ve discussed, the issue at hand has already been decided (outsourcing) and the nature of the request made back on 2/18/15 for information used in the Nov, Dec, Jan Exec Meetings is pretty stale at this point. Having no interest in the District continuing to accumulate legals fees, we considered the matter closed.

Some notes from my side:

1) I don’t know if the District fully complied with the OOR directive. They had introduced a string of e-mails in their partial information disclosure back in March. The request for information was broadly written and these, and other, items may have been included in complying with the OOR order.

2)The “settlement” came about through the work of Virginia Lastner. She authored the attached although it’s been through several revisions. This approach was one that was presented by the Board to us.

3)The letter itself is a bit awkward….not addressed to anyone, no signature identification (I added “Members of the TESD Board” so at least they signed in that capacity) but on District letterhead.

4)The District’s side of the agreement is to leave the OOR finding intact. These also stops the legal work on this RTK request…I hope.

Finally, the District/Board would not make it public on their website but you are free to put it on yours if you choose. In this case, it was the best course of action. As the Requestor, I did not “get” much but possibly a stop to the District legal bills on this issue. Clearly, if the issue at hand were still undecided, we had the right to continue to push for all the materials granted by the OOR.

Thanks….

Neal Colligan

Neal Colligan vs TESD School Board letter

 

Neal Colligan vs TESD Art McDonnell certification

 

 

 

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6 Comments

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  1. 2)The “settlement” came about through the work of Virginia Lastner. She authored the attached although it’s been through several revisions. This approach was one that was presented by the Board to us.

    Virginia authored the letter.

    Beginning the third paragraph, it states, “As the outcome of this production”

    I’m just reading and digesting this. Can you offer a comment on what that means.

    [Reply]

  2. Not sure I can add much….they were not my words. It was supposed to “settle” the matter as the District did not want to provide any additional documents….I believe the phrase was trying to capture the finality of the process.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Neal,

    The legal bills on this are not your issue. Citizens have a right to know how decisions are made. It is ridiculous that this is what it takes to get information that citizens have a right to review. Let tax paying, voting citizens have the final say in November.

    Thank-you for all you have accomplished. It is truly monumental. However, I would not have signed that letter.

    [Reply]

  3. Mr. Colligan states above that the letter is a bit awkward. To say the least. There is no greeting or salutation and no ending. In business letters, it’s very important to include a salutation, otherwise as in this case, the e-mail comes across as cold and impersonal. It is considered disrespectful by most business people to receive or send an e-mail using only the person’s first name. Dear is always a good and wise fall back for any correspondence, and would have been a good fit here.

    [Reply]

  4. I’m still stuck on “As the outcome of this production” It seems like a hostile statement, written by someone very irritable who resents having to release information to the public.

    I think this “production” as the Board identified it, illustrates my point that citizens have very little say in the operations of the district. The Office of Open Records decision clearly supports my opinion by ruling that as a result of the OOR findings, the District was required to provide all requested Affordable Care Act records from the secret Executive Sessions withing 30 days.

    I would like to hear from any citizen who believes it is O.K. for Board Directors to conduct secret meetings to make decisions like this. Is it O.K. to bar a Board Member from discussions as was Liz Mercogliano?

    Is this a style, a culture, unique to TE, or do all school boards in all districts operate in this way?

    Is this O.K.? I really want to know.

    [Reply]

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