Friday, June 8, 2012

Sandwich super's case isn't over until it's over

January 11, 2012: It appears that the appeals court consisting of a three-judge panel is seeing eye-to-eye with our former superintendent's counsel. See the article in the Cape Cod Times at: http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120111/NEWS/201110341/-1/NEWS11

Will Mary Ellen Johnson win her appeal, returning the case back to Barnstable Superior Court for a second look?

UPDATE on June 8, 2012: Yes. The appeals court agreed that the superintendent's contract was valid and that ADA Stack's letter was an opinion, holding no legal weight.

52 comments:

  1. Greg the OriginalJune 8, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Randy, thank you for returning this segment to the blog in a way that allows the system to heal. Neither side of this ugly argument should feel good right now. It doesn't matter how many hours were spent fueling the angry fire. Right now, this entire town has to come forward and meet the legal requirements. In an already ugly budget year, lets hope someone will hit the lottery and buy the town a new Public Safety Facility and close the chapter on MEJ's contract once and for all. I am going out to buy a lottery ticket right now. The Peace Train thanks you again Randy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  3. WE SHALL SEE WHAT THE BARNSTABLE COURTS SAY NOW. IF IT IS SO CUT AND DRY WHY DID THEY SEND IT BACK TO BARNSTABLE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, the role of an appellate court is to uphold a decision of a lower court, or to overturn a decision and remand the case back to the court that made the error.

      Delete
    2. THANKS RANDY MY POINT WAS EVERYONE IS SAYING SHE HAS WON,HAS A CONTRACT ETC. WHEN IN FACT ALL THIS MEANS IS WE ARE BACK TO SQUARE ONE.

      Delete
    3. But with a valid contract ...

      Delete
    4. NOT TRUE VALID CONTRACT TO BE DETERMINED.

      Delete
  4. I just started following this case, but I think the key quote is:

    "The plaintiff argues that even if the April 30 actions violated the open meeting law, the violation did not operate automatically to invalidate the actions. Instead, the plaintiff contends, judicial intervention was necessary to invalidate her contract extension. We agree."

    So, even if there was an OML violation (intentional or not), nobody took the proper steps to invalidate the contract. As a result, she still has a legal employment contract with the Sandwich Schools -- that is going to cost money to settle.

    They could still argue about including members personally, but that's small dollars that would probably be waived in order to collect the much bigger (and easier) breach of contract settlement.

    ReplyDelete
  5. JUST A SIDE NOTE ACCORDING TO HER CONTRACT SHE CAN'T SUE THE MEMBERS PERSONALLY. BUT I AM SURE ALL HER SUPPORTERS WILL OVER LOOK THAT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobody cares about the personal suits .... That's their problem. The fact that the School Committee is being sued is the Reason that taxpayers are about to get screwed again.

      Delete
    2. OFF COURSE YOU DON'T CARE IF ITS LEAGAL OR NOT. YOU ONLY CARE ABOUT HER ILLEGAL CONTRACT

      Delete
  6. It's doubtful we are back to square 1. The appeals court decision is remarkably brief and straightforward. Square 1 is way behind us. The quote by anonymous on 6-8 @ 4:06 is quite clear. The case goes back to the trial court to make the official determination that there was a contract voted, what its terms were, that the town breached and the amount of damages resulting. This is gona be pricey.

    The appeals court explained that the circumstances of this case are governed by statute. The protocol set out in the statute for challenging the vote at the continued meeting was not followed and the window for doing so is long gone. It appears to be that simple.

    Whose advice was the school committee following during the period just after the vote to extend? Why wasn't the statute followed?
    If the statute is as clear as the appeals court says it is, why wasn't this case settled before now? It's one thing to blunder into a legal error. Even if there is an excuse for that, there is no excuse for continuing to dig the hole deeper. There is a lot of taxpayer $ being spent here. Who has been managing the legal budget and this particular litigation for the town? Were the legal risks ever assessed as any company would do? It is hard to believe that, given this decision, it did not become obvious at some point the town was going to lose. I would be grateful if someone from the town will respond.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. IT GOES BACK TO COURT TO DETERMINE THE MERITS OF THE CASE. THE ILLEGAL MEETING AND OPEN MEETING LAW AT THE TIME WAS UNDER THE DA'S OFFICE

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Randy, i realize it's your blog and you can "edit" posts, but are you going to allow any negative realisms about Johnson to be posted or are you now on the same network as the other blog, and will only post negatives about the SC members - which in my opinion are thoughts and not facts, for the most part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Opinion, up to but not crossing the line of libel, is fine. Comments that declare that one party or another was "found guilty" when there was no trial crosses the line. State your case in a non-defamatory way and I'll publish it. (In other words, same rules as always.)

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Carl Johansen would state that the ruling by the upper court has determined that in fact DR. Johnson did have a valid contract, based upon the lack of the School Committee to file the proper paperwork with in the 21 day period, stated under Massachusetts law and other procedual failures. The Legal council payed for by the School System failed to follow the advice to have the School committee members put in motion that filing this paper work would prevent further liability later on / The majority of the school committee also failed in there duties to also do the same thing, even after they were informed to not do it, would cost the tax payers of Sandwich a great deal of money. Several of the recorded minute meetings reflect that such action be taken and in fact the legal council representing them did not have a grasp of the laws in place regarding such filings and yet they continued to posture on not filing the brief that would have prevented some of the up and comming legal matters we now will face as taxpayers of Sandwich.

    The main course of action is now how much money will it take to correct all of the obvious errors in the formation of attempting to discredit Dr Johnson and her reputation and loss of pay, benifit package and future loss of pay.

    This may well be decided by a jury as to actually who will pay and how much. If it can be proven, that the School committee acted outside of its bounds protected by legal representation, then perhaps they would also face some personal financial loss.

    Those are only some of the matters that the lower court will now need to determine, that is unless an offer is submitted that compensates for all of Dr. Johnson's losses.

    This subject matter may well take a few more years to complete, but as most above have stated, we the Tax Payers and the Sandwich School System will pay the final bills, no matter how all turns out

    It would only be justice if,, those who helped to place our school and town in this predicament also share part of the burdan they placed us in

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Someone is really mad. Thank you Randy for keeping it civil.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Okay, I'll try a different approach Randy, since it seems I am not allowed to write anything negative or truthful about MEJ.
    What have the four "witches" done, besides not extending her contract, that has had an actual negative impact in the district? People post horrible things about them constantly, and the other blog uses slanderous adjectives to descibe them, but what have they actually done to incur such negativity.To me, they, like the other members on the committee, seem to be making decisions that will positively effect the district.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On this blog I have not heard women referred to the way you did in your post (the four women). I think you are thinking of the other blog where put downs can be vile and frequent. Someone described that blog to me this week as a place where people really don't care about each other. I thought that was a nice way of putting it.

      Delete
  15. Easy answer -- I think they let their own private agendas and vindictiveness overshadow common sense. The Committee and their attorney were warned that the statute was clear and that they should get a judges opinion, but they didn't listen.

    So, now the Appeals Court is saying exactly what the Committee was warned about -- She has a valid contract because nobody filed a complaint to attempt to have it voided. We don't know if a judge would have voided the contract because we don't know whether a judge would have seen the possible OML violation as serious enough to reverse the legal authority of elected officials who likely followed the spirit of the law --- but, unfortunately, maybe not the exact letter of it.

    THAT is why they have judges to resolve those questions.

    Unfortunately, based on the clarity of the Appeals Court ruling, I suspect they knew what the judge would have said and they decided to try to bluff their way through -- hoping that Johnson would go away quietly if they beat on her long enough.

    If they really wanted a new Superintendent, I am sure there were other legal, humane and cheaper ways of doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NOTHING HAS BEEN RESOLVED. THE MERITS OF THE CASE WILL BE HEARD IN BARNSTABLE. THATS ALL THE APPEAL MEANS.

      Delete
    2. So my question stands, besides the non-renewal of her contract what other horrible nasty mindless things did this group do to get the ongoing negativeness. And as far as this case is concerned, If the AG office allows this to go forward without a fight, OML as we know it will be over. Groups will be able to do anything they want and it will be legal as long as no one "complains in 21 days. Have a meeting anywhere you want whenever you want, make decisions, take votes, just hope no one complains. But if they do you can cite the MEJ case.
      But I would still like to hear from the anti-4 group to know what they've done that's so bad!!

      Delete
    3. Actually, this is nothing new. There have already been legal precedents -- see Tebo vs. Shrewsbury or the South Hadley Supt case. The judge ruled in both cases that no complaint was filed within the required period, so actions couldn't be voided.

      Besides -- there would have to be a hearing to determine even IF OML was violated -- let alone whether any action would be reversed. If the notice had been stapled to the clerk's bulletin board, would that have informed more people than local TV & papers? Would the public have been served any better ? Would it have affected the outcome of the meeting?

      No, No & No. It sounds like dueling technicalities. Move on.

      Delete
    4. The lack of response says it all!! So they made a choice which is their right and duty in their position, and since a certain few didn't like it, everything they've done,regardless if it was good or not, is ..well ?wrong?. I don't get you people.

      Delete
    5. huh? I don't pay much attention -- but it seems clear to me.

      They wasted thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of school tax dollars to get rid of a superintendent because she apparently had the audacity to disagree with the Teachers Union and question the Community School. (I do not believe they ever stated any other reason.)

      That would seem to be a good reason.

      They did nothing about managing the budget -- while very theatrical, their questions were repetitive and silly and showed they had no understanding of the topic or the process.

      Last Year's meetings were certainly more civil -- its too early to guess what this year's meetings will look like.
      They didn't "do" anything else. Canfield has been doing a good job -- but that's him -- not the Committee.

      Delete
    6. Anon 11:00 pm: You are getting the same response now (crickets!) as people got when they tried to ask the SC members why they weren't renewing Dr. Johnson's contract. They had no answer for us, and we gave them significantly more time than it's been since you first posed your question (<36 hours, and already the conclusion that there's no answer to be had? Whoa Nelly!).

      At the time, our gracious blog host, Mr. Hunt, published a Solomonic compromise suggestion in the local weekly. Paraphrasing, it was something like: why not renew her contract for one year, not three, with further renewals contingent upon meeting specific goals re: personnel relations or whathaveyou. To my knowledge, this proposal never got any discussion time whatsoever.

      And that -- being significantly more important than one anonymous blog commenter deigning to reply to another one, though you've drawn the same conclusion from it! -- was the beginning of the damage you're asking about.

      Delete
    7. Lack of common sense is an excellent point when it comes to what the heck went wrong with the Johnson issue. And there was a lot of that to go around on both sides. The emotional took over people's brains. The fact too that some believed a letter to be a legal proclamation and disregarded the legal status of the difference between that and a formal complaint process was a huge factor I think. People believe what they want to believe. People believe they are on the side of right especially if they are only listening to the their own crowd. People hate to be wrong. People want to punish if they don't have the skills to use common sense and find a better way. People want to make an uncomfortable situation go away. Power corrupts. Ego's can be very dangerous. Executive decisions take skill. Legal advise is only just that. The SC still was responsible for executive decisions about what would be a rational outcome. No one looked for a compromise. Politics, got to love it. Let us not forget the bombs being thrown by many on the blogs, in public, and how that effects rational outcome. Good people soon were afraid to try and do anything. Parents and others just tried to survive.

      Delete
    8. MR. EAGLE

      THE SC WAS UNABLE TO RESPOND TO YOUR QUESTIONS BECAUSE OF THE LEGAL ISSUES AS IAM SURE YOUR AWARE.

      Delete
  16. The town's lawyers dropped the ball...plain and simple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING A CORRECT STATEMENT

      Delete
  17. Replies
    1. MOVING ON IS FINE BUT IF COMMENTORS I WILL COMMENT

      Delete
  18. AGREED. LET'S CLOSE THE THREAD UNTIL SOMEONE FIXES THEIR CAPS LOCK!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WHY DO THE CAPS LOCK BOTHER YOU

      Delete
  19. Greg the originalJune 19, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Ms Caps Lock ON. I am going to try this explanation in hopes that you do NOT realize why caps lock on bother people. Since emailing started a long time ago, it became generally known that when someone typed something in capital letters...THEY WERE SCREAMING AT YOU. Most of the time, those emails were not nice. Most people hate being screamed at. So, your typing with the caps lock button on is a way to anger people and they will not even read your comments, regardless of their content, right or wrong. Maybe, just maybe, if you stopped screaming at us (not really just with the keyboard) your points would be better understood. Just sayin...

    ReplyDelete
  20. i won't scream, but i will say that the caps help me quite a bit. I have a hearing aid and it is sometimes difficult to hear what i am reading.

    ReplyDelete
  21. New phase of the ongoing saga of MEJ is available at the SJC in Boston. Have a look.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have moved on.

      Delete
  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  23. ENOUGH IS ENOUGHJune 30, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    Greg, you are correctly moving on. There is little we can do to change what will happen. It is in the hands of the court. That said, we must look to the future of the schools. Dr. Canfield is proposing a STEM Academy. For sure it will cost the Town some substantial money. Where will it come from? I would support an override, some others would support a Public Safety Bldg, yet others a library. As has been said by some politicians in Sandwich, "we have not a list of priorities". Now comes the Selectman and Town Manager who say "Let's build a HUGE Public Safety Bldg." "Let's just ask the people" says. I am tired, very tired of the same old dog chow coming from the leadership.

    Please give us your plan NOW for a long range of priorities for Capital needs before you ask for 44 million from the people. I strongly maintain that we DO NOT need Market Basket size Public Safety Bldg. which will, in the long run, sacrifice the needs of the children of Sandwich, which is really sacrificing the future of America. Police and Fire do their job, and well done, on the road, in our homes, in our businesses. They deserve a facility that is affordable to the People. The $330 more that the building will cost me in taxes is not worth it. Mr. Dunham speaks of how the amount of debt was dramatically reduced ove a number of years, but he forgot to say that the operational expense of the Town must have gone up because my taxes went up. Now he wants to bring in another $300 from me. Forget it, its not going to happen unless you scale down the building.

    FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN WHO NEED BETTER SCHOOLS, DON'T GO FOR THIS FOLKS.

    REMEMBER WHEN JOHNSON WINS, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO COME UP WITH TWO OR THREE MILLION MORE.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. enough is enough, where do you get 2 or 3 million for MEJ. She is seeking $300,000 and if she has received any money, employment or any type of wage, that is deducted from what the district would have to pay out after the insurance pay out. I do agree that it would be nice to see the schools receive some cash so that students would have a reason to stay in town and we wouldn't have to pay almost a million bucks to other schools. I believe that it was mentioned that monies for STEM could be mostly funded from grants etc. Like you said, I would rather pay higher taxes for the students than to erect a new building. How long will it take for the new building to fall into disrepair because this town doesn't seem to feel there is a need for upkeep with its buildings and grounds.

      Delete
  24. is offended at his deletion

    ReplyDelete
  25. I agree public comment will have no impact on court action. But, I think its fair game to question the wisdom of elected officials who continue to rely on the advice of legal counsel when said counsel may have a track record of questionable judgement -- and will benefit from prolonging legal activity.

    It's time to do a little spring cleaning in the legal department. If we can't get enough officials with relevant professional experience we need to at least ensure they hire competent counsel.

    ReplyDelete
  26. The SC council, from what I understand, is mostly there for negotiations. Yes, he also advises on other legal issues, but I don't feel he personnally did anything wrong. He and the town council were both given the advise of the ADA, whose office was in control of OML at the time, they just gave that info to the SC and explained how the options would work out. Then the committee made the final choice. I also understand that the continuation of the MEJ saga stemmed from the towns insurance company's council. The SC is not made up of lawyers, nor should it be, I don't feel that needs to be a pre qualification, they do need to understand MGL and how it applies to schools, and then use council to assist.

    ReplyDelete
  27. unconcerned citizen of the Great Town of SandwichDecember 7, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Well, well, the good doctor is going to represent herself. I hope whatever she does stretches this saga out for years to come. I hope Nevins clogs things up so that she has to hire another lawyer who will take more money. The damage she did to the Sandwich Schools will take decades to recover from.

    ReplyDelete
  28. At first when I saw your posting I thought "here we go again", but you know, there will be quite a bit more to come on this subject. I sort of agree with you. For sure she helped some careers, destroyed others, helped the special needs folks, but frankly did not leave a good legacy. I wish her the best although, I too think that we are better off even with the high cost.

    ReplyDelete

I monitor all comments. As long as there are no personally defamatory statements and/or foul language, I'll post your comment. For this reason, your comment will not appear instantaneously. To comment without registering, choose Name/URL and type a screen name (or your real name if you like) into the Name field. Leave the URL field blank.