Thursday, May 06, 2010

State teachers' union threatens court action to block release of documents by Williamstown schools

The following are texts of email exchanges among Adam Filson, chairman of the Williamstown School Committee, and Bill Densmore, a resident of Williamstown and other town officials.  These exchanges were posted by Bill Densmore (

for context, view particularly the last two pages of this PDF:
From: "Bill Densmore"
To: "Peter Fohlin-458-3500"
Cc: "Adam Filson" ; "Bill Densmore" ; "Fred Dupere" ; "Ira Fader" ; "Joel Bard" ; "Kathy Poirot" ; "Lynn Sadlowski" ; "Patrick Ronan" ; "Rose Ellis"
Sent: Friday, May 07, 2010 5:00 PM
Subject: Re: Public Records Update -- not a personnel action / MTA TRO threat (fwd)

> Dear Mr. Fohlin (Peter):

> Please see:
> Please let me know if the town decides to agree to the MTA's request and seek advice from the Supervisor of Public Records, to the extend that  would toll out the 10-day response requirement.

-- SNIP --

> -- bill

Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 19:18:31 -0400 (EDT)

From: Bill Densmore
To: Rose Ellis , Lynn Sadlowski ,
Peter Fohlin-458-3500
Cc: Adam Filson , Bill Densmore , Fred Dupere ,
Ira Fader , Joel Bard , Kathy Poirot , Patrick Ronan
Subject: Re: Public Records Update -- request to "inspect and copy" only

Dr. Ellis (and Lynn):
cc: Peter Fohlin

In reading carefully your May 6 letter to me, and in the interest of convenience and efficiency, it is not necessarily required that you "send me" any documents. I would be happy to examine them at your offices (or at Town Hall if that is where they reside). Copying may not be necessary, either. If there is a particular document that I'd like a copy of, I'll request it, as the law specifies. I don't want to incurr the expense (or wasted trees) of massive amounts of copying that I have not requested. I simply asked to exercise my legal right to "inspect and copy," I did not direct you to copy, at least not at this time.


Bill Densmore
75 Water Street
Williamstown MA 01267

Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 16:01:36 -0400
From: Lynne Sadlowski
To: Bill Densmore
Cc: Adam Filson
Subject: Re: Public Records Update

I appreciate your phone call and understanding that detailed conversations regarding this matter should begin with the Peter Fohlin at Town Hall, or our Adam Filson, our school committee Chair.


On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 3:20 PM, Bill Densmore wrote:


Is it the school's intention to accede to the MTA's request? I continue to request immediate compliance with my Open Records Act request. The law requires this. There is no reason to wait for 10 days if immediately compliance is possible.

-- bill

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------

> Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 15:36:49 -0400 (EDT)

> From: Bill Densmore
> To: Lynne Sadlowski
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: Public Records Update -- not a personnel action
>> Lynn:
>> Thanks for your helpful phone call just now. Attorney Bard refused to talk to
>> me.
>> One other point. The requests I requested are not relevant to any personnel
>> action, so far as I know. So I would take issue with the MTA's
>> characterization of my request as being related to a personnel action.

>> -- bill
>> On Fri, 7 May 2010, Lynne Sadlowski wrote:

>>> The reason is outlined in the MTA's letter.

(posted at
>>> .
>>> Lynne
>>> On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Bill Densmore wrote:
>>>> Why?
>>>> On Fri, 7 May 2010, Lynne Sadlowski wrote:
>>>> Bill,
>>>>> The Massachusetts Teachers Association has contacted the Town of
>>>>> Williamstown and requested that we refrain from releasing any information
>>>>> until a determination has been made by the Supervisor of Public Records in
>>>>> the Secretary of State's Office. Please see the attached letter.
> Lynne Sadlowski
> Assistant to the Superintendent
> Williamstown-Lanesborough School Union 71
> 115 Church Street
> Williamstown, MA 01267
> 413 458-5840 x 103
> Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 22:15:59 -0400 (EDT)
> From: Bill Densmore
> To: Adam Filson
> Cc: Patrick Ronan , Peter Fohlin-458-3500
> , Rose Ellis
> ,
> "Fred Dupere, Esq. (" , Lynne
> Sadlowski,
 Bill Densmore , "Bertsche, Robert A."
> Subject: RE: Curious (fwd) (Regarding Densmore Open Records Act request)

> Thanks for your prompt reply to:
> There is nothing in my request that constitutes personnel information. I
> have asked only for records related to a decision to make a payment to a
> person who, at the time of the payment, on information and belief, was not
> an employee of the school, thus no personnel records would be involved.
> Also, the jist of the request is for records of a payment of taxpayer
> funds pursuant to an agreement. Other than the "black budget" of the
> Pentagon (and I wonder about that, too), I think it would be unprecedented
> and gravely contrary to public policy to suggest that there is any basis
> to shield **any** use of state or municipal taxpayer funds from public
> view and scrutiny.
> To infer that the payment of public money to a person somehow raises
> privacy issues, and to suggest that might override the public's interest
> in knowing how its money is spent, could open the door to all kinds of
> misuse of funds. Indeed, openness and transparency is what is most likely
> to guard against misuse of funds, and that is what is called for here.
> In order to avoid an appeal to the district attorney or the state
> Supervisor of Public Documents, please advise what records you propose to
> redact, if any.
> For FYI ONLY purposes, I have copied Rob Bertsche, the counsel to the
> Massachusetts Newspaper & Press Association. I serve on its board.
> -- bill densmore

From: Adam Filson <
Date: May 6, 2010 9:02:37 AM EDT
To: Bill Densmore <>, Patrick Ronan <
Cc: Peter Fohlin-458-3500 <>, Rose Ellis <>, "Fred Dupere, Esq. (" <>, Lynne Sadlowski <>
Subject: RE: Curious (fwd) (Regarding Densmore Open Records Act request)


Thank you for your email.  Please note that the Williamstown Elementary School  (WES) is in receipt of your public records request of May 3rd.  WES will be complying with your request within the statutory reply period.  Dr. Ellis will be sending you an email confirming the same.  This process will consist of a WES staffer pulling the requested documents from the files, making copies and then segregating via redaction (as WES is required by law to do - specifically MGL Ch. 4, Sec. 7) information that is personnel information and/or specifically names an individual which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.  The process also includes a contractual 5-day prior notice of disclosure to be given to agreement parties.  As mentioned, notwithstanding the process, WES will comply with the request within the statutory deadline.

In the interim, I'm happy to meet with you and Patrick Ronan so that you may clarify your statements regarding the Open Meeting Law.

Best regards,

Chair, WES Committee

P Please consider the environment before printing

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Densmore []
Sent: Wednesday, May 05, 2010 6:55 PM
To: Patrick Ronan
Cc: Jane Allen; Peter Fohlin-458-3500; Jane Allen; Kathy Poirot-458-3500; Steve Johnson; Tom Costley; jay johnson; Rose Ellis; Adam Filson; Fred Leber; Elizabeth Valerio
Subject: Re: Curious (fwd) (Regarding Densmore Open Records Act request)


Re below. I left you a voice mail.

Fred Leber is a neighbor and when I learned that he seemed to be having trouble obtaining public records from the school, I decided to file an Open Records Act request for them out of curiousity. I don't know anything firsthand, and make no judgements, about any claim or settlement; I'll wait to see what the documents show.

As you know, the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act requires that all official actions taken by public boards must be confirmed by votes in open session. So if there was some settlement of a matter by the school board in 2008 or 2009 it would of course be a matter of public record in the minutes of the school board. If the school board settled a claim and authorized payment of some amount and did so by a vote in executive session, the action taken would be void, as far as I am concerned. So I asked for such minutes.


Similarly, records of a puported $50,000 payment to an individual by the town or school would have to show in records of warrants or checks written by the town or school during a period when such an alleged payment was made. And so I asked for those records. The town and school have 10 days under the Massachusetts Open Records Act to respond to my request, handed to them on Monday. But the law expects expeditious response so I would be very surprised if they didn't respond more quickly than that, especially given that there is an election on Tuesday.I have copied the town and the school on this reply, in a spirit of
cooperation and transparency.
-- bill densmore / 413-458-8001 cell: 617-448-6600

On Wed, 5 May 2010, Patrick Ronan wrote:

Hi Mr. Densmore,
My name is Patrick Ronan. I just started as a news reporter for, and I have been assigned to the Williamstown beat. I received word from Fred Leber that you were requesting public documents from the town of Williamstown.
-- SNIP --
I'm curious if your request is directly related to the matter Mr. (Fred) Leber informed me about? I'm looking for as much information as possible because if, in fact, the use of public funds was being kept secret, there is a story here. But I'd like to get as much background as possible before I pursue any further.
Feel free to give me a call if you have any info. You can reach me in the office at (413) 663-3384. Or you can reach me on my cell phone at (339) 788-8767.
Take care and thank you for your time,


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