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D.A.'s office investigates possible open meeting violation

By Natasha Clark

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW An item on the Longmeadow School Committee's meeting agenda last Monday raised the question of whether or not School Committee member Jerold Duquette violated open meeting laws.

Putting together a three-member Negotiations Team was the first School Committee topic of the evening and Duquette didn't waste any time expressing his wish to be one of the three.

"I'm the only person at this table who can speak as an educator," Duquette said, before noting that he sent an e-mail to Committee members about his desire to be on the team and that it "didn't get a response."

"I'm sorry if you feel that way," Nittolli replied. "Your e-mail violated open meeting law ... I did not want to respond after that e-mail, it was improper."

Later, when Committee member Mary Vogel said that Duquette's words suggested that other School Committee members wouldn't have empathy towards teachers in terms of negotiating because they weren't educators, Duquette said that he was "the only person who knows [the teachers'] perspectives first hand. That's uncontested ... I would assume it would be a no-brainer."

The week before the meeting, Longmeadow resident Diane Nadeau had given Reminder Publications a copy of Duquette's e-mail, along with other e-mails that she said were exchanged between members of the Finance Committee, all of which are potentially in violation of open meeting laws and are currently under investigation by the District Attorney's Office.

In the e-mail sent on Aug. 24, Duquette allegedly asks the committee for their support for his nomination to the negotiating team.

This is not the first time there have been issues with open meeting laws in the town. Earlier this year there were concerns regarding meetings between Bay Path College and the Select Board.

A few months later, the town hosted an informational session featuring Carol Carson of the State Ethics Commission who discussed conflict of interest topics and open meeting laws.

Duquette made no excuse for his e-mail when he spoke with Reminder Publications.

"I did send an e-mail to my colleagues on the School Committee that the chair believes may violate the open meeting law. I haven't disputed that interpretation," Duquette said. "However, the substance of the e-mail is what was ignored and I was obviously very disappointed that the committee, through what appeared to be a pre-orchestrated maneuver by the four conservative members, [chose] to exclude me from the negotiations team. I have no excuse, if I violated the open meeting law I'll take any penalty that goes along with it."

Duquette also said he does not know how Nadeau received the e-mail and why the e-mail was not a part of the official School Committee correspondence that night, as is the practice with other letters or e-mail sent to or from the Committee.

The School Committee voted for three Negotiation Team members by ballot. The three committee members with the most votes were Geoffrey Weigand, Robert Barkett and James Nittoli. Duquette and fellow committee member Santaniello will act as alternates.

In other School Committee news: Carol Cash has been named the new Business Director to the Longmeadow School Committee.