An attorney for three women with Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) sexual harassment complaints against the Everett Public Schools and former Supt. Fred Foresteire is lashing out at the School Committee for outing the names of her clients on a publicly posted meeting agenda – saying her clients’ identities should have been shielded.
Attorney Tara Swartz said the cases involving her three clients had just had a mediation session last week with the schools, and following that, the public agenda came out with her client’s names on it. She said at this stage in the claim, her client’s names should be shielded from the public for fear of retaliation.
“MCAD Complaints are not released to the public during an ongoing investigation as the privacy of Complainants is protected during this time,” she said. “The School Committee is well aware that all three women’s complaints are within this protected stage. The Committee’s decision to release their names, within hours after the parties concluded their mediation, is retaliatory. In our view it is a clear attempt to intimate them from pursuing their claims as well as to discourage others who have (or may still) come forward with additional sexual harassment allegations and/or other information pertinent to the pending claims. My clients remain resolute in the pursuit of their claims and their efforts to end the culture of fear and silence that has permeated the school system for far too long.”
The agenda was for a Committee of the Whole, and within that agenda was an item for Executive Session. That item read, “Executive Session to discuss strategy with respect to pending MCAD litigation, pursuant to (state law). Three complaints…” That’s where it revealed the women’s names – all of which, save one, has been anonymous until now.
School Committee Chair Tom Abruzzese said the Committee’s apologizes if that was improper and certainly doesn’t want to cause any further harm to those involved.
“If that was done and was improper, my apologies because I did not see that,” he said. “At the same time, I thought the identities of the people were made public by the plaintiffs and their attorney. In the past, when we talked about it, we only called it…’MCAD complaint against the School Committee.’ If it’s troublesome, or more than that, my apologies.”
Abruzzese said his agenda he had on Monday only listed ‘Executive Session’ and did not list anything further.
At the meeting Monday, that item on the agenda was never discussed and was taken off at the last minute. So, in essence, that part of the meeting was never conducted.
That was in contrast to how the meeting was posted last Thursday, March 14.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said the meeting notice was called in for an amendment to add that executive session piece. An amendment as such is allowed, he said. Since it was after 5 p.m., the School Department called him to post the amendment.
School Committee Attorney Robert Galvin, Asst. Supt. Charles Obremski and Abruzzese were involved in that conversation, he said.
He said he wrote it up, sent it to them for review, and they approved it. After that, it was posted by the City Clerk’s office with the names of the victims on it.
Another inconsistency with the agenda is that it wasn’t signed by anyone from the School Department. Previous Executive Session agendas are signed by Interim Supt. Janice Gauthier, but the one for the Committee of the Whole on Monday was not signed by any School official – which brings into question whether it was a legal public meeting having not been officially called by anyone in authority.
A call to School Committee Attorney Robert Galvin was not returned in time for this report. The MCAD said it does not release the names of those with open, ongoing cases, to the public. It would not comment on the situation with the School Committee agenda.