The school board approved ousting Owen Casas from the Camden-Rockport Middle School Building Committee Dec. 20.

School Board Chairman Matt Dailey accused Casas of "overstepping his authority."

“To have someone who would continue to serve on our board — who has not done the right thing — who has in some ways accused us of 'bad faith,' I just feel is completely inappropriate,” said Dailey.

In a Dec. 4 email, Dailey indicated Casas was being booted from the committee because he had encouraged a resident to file a formal Freedom of Access Act request for information, which forced the school district to provide hundreds of pages of emails and documents concerning the fate of the former Mary E. Taylor school building. Dailey criticized Casas for not disclosing his involvement in the 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," Dailey said.

“Why did I choose not to tell the building committee of this?" Casas asked. "I did not, and still do not, understand how my informing the committee of this knowledge was appropriate. …I would like to think that I'm a really good committee member…"

“You sat in a room with a bunch of people on that committee, who you basically put under a microscope. You put a lot of them in a position with the [FOA] that made it difficult for them to talk to other people. You didn't give them the chance to conceal their identity. Do you think that is honest?” asked Dailey.

“I'm under a microscope all the time,” began Casas.

“Do you think it's honest that you put those other people under a microscope? They're not you. They're people volunteering… community members on that committee – do you think it was fair to them? You concealed your role in the FOA, and when it came time to release things, they had no choice. Do you think that was honorable? Do you think that was honest?” asked Dailey.

“I think that it was an effort to understand how this process had gone,” said Casas. “Yes, I don't have any problems with how I conducted myself during that time. It was not my FOA, it was someone else's. I was associated with it … I don't have any issues with my honesty as it relates to this,” said Casas.

Rockport Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley and former Selectman Geoff Parker spoke positively of Casas' character, his contributions to their boards, as well as the right of citizens to seek out information via a Freedom of Access request.

“I still don't think that anyone answered my questions, and I still think that it's 'bad faith,'” said Dailey of Casas' actions, as the school board began deliberations.

“It's about seemingly subversion, and it's about a motivation factor…," said Vice Chair Lynda Chilton. "I just can't imagine being involved in a committee — with a bunch of people — and in your heart of hearts believing they're not doing a good job and that there's something wrong, something that has to be investigated,” said Chilton.

Board member Becky Flanagan said the situation had devolved to the point that parties involved could not work together. At this point, Casas returned to the podium. Chilton said Casas was interrupting the board's deliberation process.

“Just for a point of clarification, because I've heard a couple of times,” began Casas.

“Go sit down, go sit down,” said Dailey to Casas.

Board member Marcia Dietrich moved that the school board accept changes to the building committee charter, including opening the seat held by Casas to a new nominee. The motion was seconded by Chilton, and approved by all board members present.

The FOAA request Dailey refers to was submitted by Maggie Timmerman to the SAD 28 Board, requesting all emails and documents pertaining to the Mary E. Taylor building. In November, after Timmerman reviewed nearly 900 pages received from SAD 28, she sent information to the Camden and Rockport Select Boards.

Casas said Dec. 5 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.

At the Dec. 20 meeting, Dailey said he asked the Rockport Select Board members to nominate another member to serve on the building committee in Casas' place because he was concerned Casas had “not lived up to the standards that I had hoped we would have in terms of the [school] board and a member of a subcommittee.”

Dailey said that on Aug. 21, during a school board retreat, Casas was present and heard Dailey explain to new school board members what the expectations of members were. These tenets included “no surprises,” a fair representation of viewpoints, open decision-making.

“It was a good meeting," Dailey said. "We all had a good time, we shared a lot of stuff and it went pretty well … but a couple of days later the school received this Freedom of Access Act request, which is fine. We have no expectation that our communications should not be reviewed with respect to the entire public.”

Dailey said although many emails by school board members do refer to school board matters, a number of them also refer to happenings within the public schools, and that it is important that caution is taken regarding releasing the names of students or individuals who may be mentioned in emails unrelated to school board or CRMS Building Committee projects.

“We're trying to build a new school, we're trying to run schools, and this [FOA] came in right when the first week of school is happening and we took time that we could have been using to create a better educational environment — to hire people and make sure that the schools are running effectively – and devote it to this effort to collect messages about a particular thing that had been in the past. It was very difficult to feel good about what that process was costing us,” said Dailey.

Dailey said once all the documents had been collected, Timmerman presented a “distilled” version of the findings to the Camden and Rockport Select Boards, but no indication of Casas' involvement in the FOA request was revealed to anyone on the school board. Dailey said he and the board members were made aware of Casas' involvement through an article published in the newspaper.

“It had been three months… the board had no idea that [Casas] felt a certain way or that this was a good solution… He had been on our building committee, he had been on the previous building committee, he had been on the Rockport Select Board. He is very well informed about the [CRMS] proposal that was put before voters in June, and he should have either shared his feelings or taken a much gentler path in getting the information or helping his constituent get the information they felt they needed,” said Dailey.

Dailey said that by not disclosing his involvement, Casas took a process, which is supposed to include openness and transparency, and instead shielded himself from possible scrutiny while leaving the members of the board unaware of what motivated the request or where it came from. Dailey said everyone he has ever served with on the board has always been honest, forthright and concerned about what's best for the schools, and it was an affront to learn that their integrity was questioned by someone who had served on one of their committees.

Dailey reported that he had approached the Rockport Select Board to nominate another member to serve on the committee, but it has declined submitting another selectman to fill Casas' seat.

“I was involved in an effort to understand, evaluate and learn from decisions that were made by some of those closest to the passage of the June bond to construct the new middle school," Casas said. "These concerns primarily applied to the disposition of the Mary E. Taylor building and the information that was provided to the public prior to the June vote.

"Prior to the vote – and yes, later in the process than is desirable — many concerned citizens, myself included, tried to get a handle on what a 'yes' vote meant for MET. After evaluating the situation, it appeared that a 'yes' vote meant that the entire middle school complex, including the MET building, would be demolished,” said Casas.

Casas acknowledged he encouraged Timmerman to make a FOA request based on concerns they both had about conflicting statements that were made before and after the middle school bond passed. He said that when the request had been made, and while documents were being collected, he was made aware of findings and made “some suggestions and minor edits.”

The next meeting of the MSAD #28 School Board will be Jan. 17 in the Camden-Rockport Elementary School at 7 p.m. The CRMS Building Committee next meets Jan. 8 in the Washington Street Conference Room in Camden at 6 p.m.

Casas, the state representative for District 94, is also a member of the Rockport Select Board. Casas served on the building committee since September as the Rockport Select Board's liason.