Gleason, Stephenson mum on e-mail investigation | SteamboatToday.com

Gleason, Stephenson mum on e-mail investigation

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

Mike McCollum

— 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.

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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.