April 6, 2007
I have heard rumors of these e-mails for nearly a year. I first heard about them on May 16, 2006, the day after Strawberry Park teacher Mike Johnson read a letter critical of Donna Howell at a May 15 School Board meeting. Johnson was reading on behalf of DeVincentis, who authored the letter.
The following week, Tom Miller-Freutel apologized for DeVincentis' behavior. I called DeVincentis to get a response. During our phone conversation, DeVincentis told me he had been communicating with people in Mercer Island about Cyndy. I thought that inappropriate, but I did not know the extent of what he meant by that statement and it was unrelated to the reason for the phone call.
These e-mail copies arrived at our office more than a week ago. They were addressed to our General Manager, Suzanne Schlicht. She gave them to me.
I felt confident, based on what I knew and what DeVincentis told me, that they were real and accurate. We verified the e-mails with multiple sources before publication. Those sources did not wish to be identified, making it necessary to check the e-mails again and again with more sources. We contacted Simms, who had been made aware of them. McGowan admitted to them.
Finally, I had a conversation with DeVincentis late Thursday afternoon. DeVincentis never looked at the e-mails we had, but our discussion removed any lingering doubts I had about their authenticity.
Some have asked why these are relevant now. Here is how I would answer:
1) It is clear that DeVincentis is a candidate for the School Board at the time he is sending the e-mails. He states that multiple times.
2) He chooses to use his school district computer and e-mail account, despite school district policies warning him that they can be made public and a warning from McGowan that they could come to light.
3) The e-mails - which cover 10 months - demonstrate a private bitterness and anger in a public official that the public largely has not seen. Had the public been aware of these e-mails, it might have had an impact on the 2005 election. I wish we had them earlier, but that does not change their relevance now.
4) The e-mails clarify DeVincentis' agenda as he runs for the School Board. Today, as DeVincentis comes after another superintendent, the public deserves to know how he chose to handle the last battle with a superintendent.
5) DeVincentis is, by his own choices, a significant public figure. His e-mails were written when he was an elementary principal and after he had formed the decision to pursue a seat on the School Board. He is now a School Board member and his comments are relevant to current news involving the School Board.
These e-mails likely would not be newsworthy if they had been sent by, for example, a teacher to another teacher. Of course, had that been the case, they likely never would have ended up in our hands.
I understand there are differing viewpoints on how we handled this. I have already received letters critical of the newspaper, and I will publish them promptly. I certainly welcome more feedback.