AMESBURY — A copy of the final 24-page investigative report on Amesbury School Department emails last year, released to the newspaper this week, is so heavily redacted that no names, dates or subjects are visible.
The report, sent by School Superintendent Jared Fulgoni to The Daily News this week in response to a state Public Records Law request, was prepared by Discrimination and Harassment Solutions Inc. of West Falmouth at a cost of $8,200 for 32.8 hours of work. But the report released to the newspaper blacked out all relevant information.
The company was hired after the School Committee unanimously approved an investigation of the release of emails between then-member Gretchen Marinopoulos and Amesbury High School Assistant Principal Glenn Gearin to the newspaper in May.
Gearin also works as a part-time athletic director. Marinopoulos had presented a motion, which was approved, to eliminate a $55,257, part-time assistant principal position at the high school April 8, less than 24 hours before she resigned her School Committee seat.
The Daily News published a story that quoted email exchanges between Marinopoulos and Gearin which showed a nearly three-year history of conflict between the two after her son was cut from the varsity soccer team.
Marinopoulos appeared before the School Committee during the public comment period May 6 and said she had learned from Daily News editor Richard K. Lodge that the newspaper had obtained the emails through a Public Records Law request to the school district and a verbal request to former Mayor Ken Gray’s office.
Marinopoulos said she was “horrified” by the newspaper article and asked that an independent investigation be conducted of how what she considered sensitive emails could have been released. The School Committee then unanimously approved her request for an investigation.
Although the investigation was completed last fall, the report and any recommendations from it have not been made public.
The newspaper filed the public records request Dec. 16 and received the heavily redacted report Jan. 6.
Coincidentally, Marinopoulos, who resigned from the committee at 6:04 a.m. on April 9, appeared before the School Committee during the public comment period on Monday this week and said she also had obtained a copy of the report through her public records request at a cost of more than $560. The newspaper was not charged for a digital copy of the redacted report.
Marinopoulos said the information she received was "so highly redacted that I can actually use it for a lesson in transitions and conjunctions as that was pretty much all that was left in there for me to read."
On Wednesday, Lodge sent a letter to state Supervisor of Records Rebecca Murray, appealing the release of the redacted report as being nonresponsive to his public records request because it lacked any information.
“Also included in the response [from Amesbury School Superintendent Jared Fulgoni] was a redacted copy of my own public records request letter to the city, with both the addressee and my name both blacked out,” Lodge wrote. “I believe that underscores the lengths to which city officials went to keep all requested information from the press and public.”
Murray said in an email Wednesday she has directed a member of her staff to review the appeal.
Fulgoni was interviewed as part of the investigation and said his biggest concern was whether someone in his department had done anything inappropriate. Fulgoni offered little more when asked to comment further.
“At the advice of legal counsel, I am really not at liberty to discuss this,” he said.
Any other issues relating to the investigation are immediately forwarded to the district's attorneys, Braintree-based Murphy, Lamere & Murphy, P.C., according to Fulgoni.
A written statement from Murphy, Lamere & Murphy stated that the School Committee will review its own record maintenance and information request policies. The statement also said Fulgoni will be working to identify training for all staff on the handling of public and confidential records.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.
ONLINE EXTRA: To read the redacted report and other documents.