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Town Attorney Offers Legal Opinion on Kidd's Subcommittee Removal

The Board of Education also appointed a new principal for Manchester High School Monday and voted on a committee to develop a plan to repair and renovate town schools.

Embattled Board of Education member was absent from Monday's school board meeting, even though the Town Attorney was called on by the board chair to provide a legal opinion on several questions that pertained directly to her. 

Board of Education Chairman Chris Pattacini sent a letter to Town Attorney Ryan Barry asking for a written legal opinion on two questions pertaining to Kidd and recent developments since allegations came to light that to another member of the school board: 

  • What authority does the board have to discipline a board member? 2. 
  • Does the chair of the Manchester Board of Education have the power to unilaterally remove a member of the board from their subcommittee assignments? 

Kidd was she sat on Feb. 23 by Pattacini. 

Barry responded in a 49-page written document and a presentation that he provided to the school board Monday evening that found that the Board of Education had the ability to censure a member for certain offenses, none of which pertained to Kidd's messages to a colleague, and that as chairman of the school board Pattacini did have the authority to remove Kidd from appointed subcommittees. 

"I wanted to be extra sure on this," Barry told Patch after he delivered his presentation. "That's why I made it so thorough." 

Barry found that the BOE had "limited authority" to discipline a member through a Resolution of Censure, which expresses that the conduct of a board member has not conformed to the Standards of Ethical Conduct laid out in the Town Charter, but the code of conduct mainly pertains to gifts and business dealings. 

Barry noted that even if the school board did vote to amend its bylaws to include the ability to censure for conduct such as inappropriate or offenses messages to other members of the board, it still could not retroactively vote to censure Kidd. 

"Certainly the BOE is free to amend its bylaws to include clauses concerning civility and behavior toward each other. Violations of these standards could then be cause for censure, but that is a policy matter for the BOE in the exercise of its own discretion," Barry wrote. "The only potential legal issue is that if such an enactment were made, it would violate due process to punish a member retroactively." 

Barry also concluded that Pattacini did have the authority to remove Kidd from Board of Education subcommittees. 

"Under the BOE bylaws, the chair is authorized to appoint members to standing and special sub-committees of the BOE," Barry wrote. "These appointments are ordinarily made at the November organizational meeting or soon thereafter. However a member's term of service on a sub-committee is not set for a fixed period of time, so such service is considered 'at will.'" 

Afterwards, Pattacini said he asked for Barry to provide a legal opinion so that the board could put matters regarding Kidd behind it. 

"What I was trying to do was to create some finality so that the board can start to get back to conducting its business," he said. 

Kidd, a Republican, has been at the center of controversy since allegations surfaced after the last Board of Education meeting that she sent threatening late-night Facebook messages to Kelly Luxenberg, a Democratic member of the school board. Kidd has maintained that she has no intention of resigning from the school board and that efforts to get her to step down are entirely politically motivated. 

Pattacini, a Democrat, said Kidd did not inform him before the meeting that she did not plan to attend and he did not know the reason for her absence. He said he had met privately with Kidd since the controversy erupted and that they had "agreed to disagree" on the issue. 

In other matters Monday, the school board voted to appoint as the next full-time principal at . Geary, who is currently the principal at Watertown High School, is slated to begin at Manchester High on April 23 and earn a $138,778 annual salary. 

The school board also unanimously voted to approve the makeup of the , a 13-member panel that will be charged with implementing a plan to repair, rehabilitate and maintain the town's aging public schools. Michael Crockett, Neol Leon, Sarah Walton and Deborah Hagenow will serve as the Board of Education's representatives on the committee. 

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