Selectmen won't replace Casas on committee

By Louis Bettcher | Jan 09, 2018
Source: LiveStream From left: Rockport Selectmen Doug Cole, Ken McKinley, Owen Casas, Tom Gray and Mark Kelley on Jan. 8.

Rockport — Selectmen decided Jan. 8 they will not appoint a replacement for Owen Casas on the Camden-Rockport Middle School Building Committee.

School Board Chairman Matt Dailey kicked Casas off the committee for failing to disclose that he had encouraged a local citizen to make a formal request for public documents from the school district.

Rather than sending another selectman to the committee, selectmen considered asking Dailey to report to them with updates on the construction process for the new school.

Casas, the state representative for District 94, is also a member of the Rockport Select Board. He had served on the building committee since September as the selectmen's liason. The school board approved ousting Casas from the committee Dec. 20.

In December, Dailey said Casas had "overstepped his authority."

On Monday night, Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley said he doesn't have time to serve on the committee, and asked the remaining board members, Doug Cole and Mark Kelley, if either of them would have time in their schedules to do so. It was necessary for selectman Tom Gray to excuse himself from the discussion due to the fact that he teaches within the school system.

“As I've said in the past I don't [have time], but I would encourage you to invite the [school board] chair once a month to give us an update,” said Kelley.

“I think he probably would not come once a month, but I think having him come to give us an update once in awhile would be fine,” said McKinley.

“It probably wouldn't be good if he didn't come,” said Kelley. Cole said that he didn't have the time or skill set to serve on the committee.

“Then I'm sensing from the board that no action needs to be taken on this item,” said McKinley, at which point Casas interjected.

“Just for the folks at home who might think that we're at a deficiency; though it is one less Rockport member there – citizen or selectman – we have Will Gartley, Anastasia Fischer and George Abendroth [of Rockport] on the committee... There are more Camden members than Rockport members, but it's not like by me not being there, there is no Rockport representation. I wish [representation] was more robust, but it's not like there are no Rockport people there,” said Casas.

In August, Casas had encouraged Rockport resident Maggie Timmerman 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, as related to the construction of a new middle school on Knowlton Street in Camden.

In November, after Timmerman reviewed nearly 900 pages she sent information to the Camden and Rockport Select Boards.

School Superintendent Maria Libby addressed the FOA request and the removal of Casas from the Building Committee in a report to the Five Town CSD School Board on Jan. 3.

"Ironically enough, Owen and others argue that voters were misled into believing that MET would be reconsidered. We are doing exactly what we said we would, yet they insist that we misled them. I have also frequently heard the complaint, 'We were assured MET would not get torn down.' This is false. No one ever assured them of that. My exact words were published in the paper. I said demolition wouldn't be required and that the fate of MET would be considered separately, as we are doing," said Libby.

Libby said Casas asked Maine Public Access Ombudsman Brenda Kielty of the Attorney General's Office to review the request, having noticed an email was missing among those the school district turned over. Libby acknowledged that two email exchanges were not included in the FOA response.

"The missing emails were either due to a flawed search or human error in reviewing over 4,000 possible emails," she said. "Neither I nor the MSAD #28 board has anything to hide and we operate from high ethical standards..."

"Board Chair Matt Daily's concern was Owen's lack of professional courtesy in not revealing his involvement in the FOAA request to the board," she continued. "It was not the FOAA request itself as people have mistakenly assumed. In all the talk about the public's right to know, which I fully endorse, there should also be mention of the public's responsibility not to use that right frivolously or to pursue a personal agenda. In a small community and school district like ours, we don't have FOAA specialists on staff doing the legwork for us," said Libby.

"...I just hope the distraction of a few disgruntled citizens doesn't prevent us from doing the important work of providing the best possible education possible for the students in our communities," wrote Libby.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Jan 09, 2018 14:02

Well the squeaky wheel once again got the grease. Complain because someone doesn't agree with you and because you felt slighted, tough, but Mr daily got his way.  Good luck on open updates in the future.



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