Following a discussion by members of the Rockport Select Board Dec. 7, members agreed that Owen Casas should "plead his case" to remain a member of the Camden Rockport Middle School Building Committee at the next meeting of the SAD 28 School Board Dec. 20.

The uncertainty concerning Casas' seat on the committee stems from actions he is said to have taken to "overstep his authority," according to School Board Chairman Matt Dailey, with whom Casas has had a documented contentious relationship.

Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley said Dec. 7 that although the Select Board recommended that Casas serve on the Building Committee, after consulting the town attorney, the decision to appoint or remove a member from the committee lies in the hands of the School Board.

“There's obviously some damage with your relationship with certain members of the School Board and the administration, and they have to decide whether they can work through that or not, and it's their right to make that decision in a different way if they like," McKinley told Casas.

 

"If I felt like I had an unreasonable bias against that school, or that I couldn't engage in the oversight of building that school, I would recuse myself [from the Building Committee]. I feel that I've been able to keep some of this friction with some of the [School Board] members outside of the committee meetings," Casas said.

 

The Select Board was in agreement that Casas should present his reasons for remaining on the Building Committee at the Dec. 20 School Board meeting. Selectman Mark Kelley commended Casas for his tenacity, but urged him to resolve the situation.

 

“Go make your pitch, mend fences and see what happens. You have to have people ask questions and shake it up now and then. See what you can do to get back in favor," said Kelley.

 

"I don't know if I can do that, but I can definitely help with the oversight of the building," said Casas.

 

"I do have concerns about how the bond [to construct the new middle school] was passed, and the standing of the Mary E. Taylor building. That said, I'm pretty good at leaving 'outside the room' issues outside the room. And when I go to the [Building Committee], the charge of that committee is looking at the building of this project.

 

"I don't feel that I have hindered the building project. I believe that I'm an OK committee member and I add something to it … I'm happy to present myself to the School Board and make my case on the 20th," said Casas.

 

Dailey told Rockport Town Manager Rick Bates, McKinley and Casas there was a need to nominate a new member to the committee in an email Nov. 22.

Dailey explained in a Dec. 4 email, "It is not a request. The MSAD 28 Board has complete authority over the membership of the committee it creates. A seat on the CRMS Building Committee was created as a courtesy to the Rockport Select Board. The Rockport Select Board can either nominate another member to the CRMS Building Committee or have no one serve."

Dailey and Casas see the issue differently. Dailey states that the SAD 28 Board has removed Casas from the Building Committee. Casas, who is also a member of the Maine House of Representatives, is waiting for what he terms due process before the School Board  when it meets Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.

Dailey states in his Dec. 4 email that the reason for Casas' removal is "that he did not disclose to the School Board his role in the August Freedom of Access Act request. He supported an effort that he knew was without merit and would be costly to the school district in terms of money and time.

"We are in the process of building a new school and that requires everyone's absolute best efforts. The School Board and its subcommittees function at their best when the words and actions of each member can be trusted. Owen can no longer be trusted in that role."

The FOAA request Dailey refers to was submitted by private citizen Maggie Timmerman to the SAD 28 Board, requesting all emails and documents pertaining to discussions about the Mary E. Taylor building. In November, after Timmerman reviewed nearly 900 pages of documentation received from SAD 28, as a result of her request, she sent about 80 pages of the documentation to the Camden and Rockport Select Boards.

In a cover letter to the town boards, Timmerman expressed the concerns that led to her request for information as "conflicting statements by school leadership before and after" the June 2017 middle school vote, and a failure "to adequately explain to the community" that MET would not be part of the middle school project and would be demolished.

Casas explained Dec. 5 his connection to the FOAA request. He said Timmerman, his wife, Marci Casas, and he were all following the MET issue. Based on the concerns around this issue, he said he was asked what he would do. His opinion was to submit a FOAA request.

Casas believes that Dailey took issue with the fact that Casas was aware that a FOAA request was submitted to SAD 28, but he did not inform the SAD 28 Board about the FOAA request.