Gleason, Stephenson mum on e-mail investigation

'No comment' from former School Board members named in report

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The DeVincentis e-mails

— Former Steamboat Springs School Board members did not cooperate with a school district investigation into the release of controversial e-mails, and they aren't talking now that the investigation is complete.

The investigation report indicates former board President Paula Stephenson is the only person who had copies of controversial e-mails sent by current board member and former elementary school principal John DeVincentis in 2004 and 2005. The investigation implies Stephenson gave the e-mails to former board member Pat Gleason, who admitted leaking them to the Pilot & Today.

But neither Stephenson nor Gleason will confirm the report's findings because neither is talking about the investigation report. The five-page report, written and prepared by current School Board members, was released Tuesday.

The report, among other things, states Gleason violated school policies by publicly releasing the e-mails.

Gleason said Thursday he has read the report, but that he won't comment on it until he talks to Stephenson.

He resigned from the School Board after releasing the e-mails to the Pilot & Today in March. At the time, Gleason said he did something he felt was right, but that his actions conflicted with board ethics.

The School Board launched an investigation into the release of the e-mails and asked past board members and district employees to cooperate with the inquiry. Gleason and Stephenson refused.

When reached by telephone Thursday, Stephenson declined to comment about her role in the e-mail release.

Gleason and Stephenson are active in the DeVincentis recall petition campaign waged by a group calling itself Save Our Schools RE-2. The group filed its recall petition with the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office on Monday. The petition contains 2,307 signatures; there must be 1,933 valid signatures for a recall election to take place.

The Clerk and Recorder's Office expects to have the signatures validated by early next week.

The e-mail investigation report indicates DeVincentis exchanged e-mails with Mercer Island, Wash., teacher Joby McGowan for more than a year, starting in March 2004 and continuing through June 2005. The report states McGowan initiated the e-mail exchanges.

In the e-mails, McGowan and DeVincentis are highly critical of former Steamboat superintendent and current Mercer Island Superintendent Cyndy Simms. The e-mails include several jokes about her personal life. The investigator hired by the School Board, Earl Rhodes of Grand Junction, found that the e-mails violated school policies.

After discovering the e-mails on DeVincentis' work computer, Superintendent Donna Howell informed Stephenson, who was the board president, about them. She gave Stephenson copies of the e-mails in August 2005, according to the report. No other board members were told about the e-mails, and Stephenson didn't return the e-mails upon leaving office in November 2005.

The report indicates Howell destroyed her copies of the e-mails in 2006 but that she didn't retrieve Stephenson's copies. In his findings, Rhodes states Howell "could have done a better job in protecting the e-mail information, since it was not public information, but confidential and which the district might need some day."

Current School Board President Denise Connelly said Thursday she does not know how much the investigation will cost. She said the board has not received a bill from Rhodes, who was hired at a rate of $150 per hour.

The board's conclusions were highly critical of Gleason and Stephenson; however, Connelly said it's too early to know what action, if any, the board could take against the former board members.

The board also indicated in its conclusions that it would revise e-mail policies and visit with Howell about how she handled the matter. Rhodes found Howell had a legal right to obtain the e-mails and that it was appropriate for her to share them with Stephenson.

Although Rhodes found DeVincentis violated school policies, the board made no mention of his conduct in its conclusions.

Comments

bcpow 7 years, 2 months ago

Can we possibly get a few more shady characters to participate in this soap opera?

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kingsride 7 years, 2 months ago

There certainly is no shortage is there. Big fish little pond.

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Mencken 7 years, 2 months ago

Well done, Pilot, this is the article you should have written on Wednesday, but better late than never. This article is much more accurate and relates the relevant findings of the investigation much better than the earlier article. You've left out the fact that the investigation called into question Dr. Howell's stated motives for accessing Dr. D.'s hard drive in the first place (and the fact that these motives were called into question by other witnesses), and you ignored the report's implicit finding (demonstrated through its heavy emphasis on when the relevant players acted in relation to a November 2005 Arapahoe County court case) that any dissemination of the emails by Gleason/Stephenson/The Pilot after November of 2005 may have been illegal, or at least questionable since those emails were then considered "private." You also left out the telling detail that Dr. Howell accessed Dr. D.'s hard drive at night, with the reluctant participation of the school tech staff. Overall, not a bad article, and I hope you can maintain some journalistic balance and integrity as the new guy on the staff, despite what many of us perceive as an institutional bias by this paper against Dr. D..

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Mencken 7 years, 2 months ago

Informed: Read the report. The report did not find Dr. D. "guilty" of anything--that's a loaded word, and it's ironic that you use it since the report did imply that some people (such as Gleason) may be liable for potentially illegal conduct in passing on the emails after November of 2005. By contrast, the report found that Dr. D. violated school policies by using his school computer to send personal emails, but noted that this policy was not even enforced! What's worse: (1) sending emails from your work computer in violation of a policy that's not enforced; or (2) acting in a potentially illegal manner by passing on confidential emails in an attempt to smear an individual? The report rightly focused on the latter, and was not a waste of money--it merely subjected SOS to the same scrutiny that Dr. D. has been under for months.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 2 months ago

Informed- we already knew D was guilty of sending the emails; when confronted with it, he owned up to it. We all knew that. There's no disputing that fact. It's a matter of perception as to whether you agree with the emails he wrote or not, so I'm not going to address that.There are just some of us that saw it was a bigger picture involving not only his emails but that certain BOE members were violating ethics. Personally, I don't call that a waste.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 2 months ago

kielbasa.... we also already knew Gleason supplied the emails to sp&t, and he stepped down from public office (one of the two that violated policy taken care of) and it looks like Howell did the right thing and turned the emails over to her boss so the only one in question here is Stephenson. Proving D and Gleason were both guilty of violating policy (which we already knew) is worth the money that was spent? Or was the money spent trying to get something on Howell, which backfired?

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Mencken 7 years, 2 months ago

JQPUBLIC: Your comment almost rebuts itself; you're right that Gleason's and DeVincentis's violation of school policy was established before the report, but Stephenson's exact role-as your comment acknowledges-was not established before the report, and now it's pretty clear. It's necessary to investigate everyone involved in the email transmissions to figure out what happened, and the report proves as much: Stephenson's likely unethical (and potentially illegal) conduct was only established through circumstantial evidence relating to the chain of custody of the emails. (I.e., Stephenson was the only person who had a copy of the emails before they were passed on to Gleason . . . you do the math. This wasn't known before the report).

The fact that the school board failed to find any direct proof of illegal conduct by Dr. Howell is irrelevant; that's what the report was intended to find out, so negative findings are just as relevant as positive findings. (Plus, it's not entirely true that Dr. Howell emerged from the report blameless-she apparently accessed Dr. D.'s hard drive, at night, under some highly questionable pretenses. It's also unclear whether she was directed to do so by Stephenson, since Stephenson failed to participate in the investigation. Finally, it's not automatically true that Dr. Howell is out of any legal danger simply because she accessed Dr. D.'s emails prior to the November 2005 court case which held that such emails were private; court rulings of this sort (at least in civil cases) are often applied retroactively, since the court is theoretically just clarifying what the law already says, not creating new law.

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stompk 7 years, 2 months ago

Why all the secrecy! Aren't they public servant basically. Do we need secret on the school board?

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