Wed09172014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

CB School Board denies council’s request for documents

CB School Board Chairman Tim Trivett announced at the May 14 School Board Meeting that he had denied the CB Town Council’s request for copies of a letter from Vacorp, the school’s insurance company, which gave reasons for denying the school’s claim. Trivett said he did this on the advice of the school’s attorney.
At a prior meeting of the council on May 8, School Board Superintendent Kathleen Beane was on hand to answer questions from council members.

Councilwoman Linda Brubaker, Council’s point of contact (POC) for the school, asked Beane if they had heard any news from Vacorp concerning the claim. When Beane revealed that Vacorp had sent a letter listing reasons for denying the claim, Brubaker and other council members seems surprised and later felt they were not being informed properly by the school system.

After some heated debates, Westmoreland County Supervisor Larry Roberson told the council that the school board had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter amongst themselves, and told the council they would do the same if they were in a similar position.

Brubaker requested a copy of the letter, and Beane agreed to send one. However, Trivett interceded that request, stating that the school board had been advised not only to deny the request, but to cease all open comments concerning the school fire, as well.

At the May 14 School Board Meeting, Trivett, frustrated and angry, addressed accusations from some Council members that information was being withheld from the council.

Every single Town Council member [knows] our door is open at that school board office. We’ve invited every one of them to come and tour the school. Some of them have; all of them haven’t. We’ve invited them to come look at our budget even while we were working on the budget, to go line by line, some of them have come over there; all of them haven’t.

“But the ones that haven’t are the ones that are crying the loudest saying the things that’s absolutely false. It’s just disheartening. We’ve tried to do everything to run this school division as efficiently as we can, as professionally as we can, and it’s just sad that there is people that don’t have any better sense than to criticize you for doing the right thing.”

Although Trivett did not divulge details contained in the Vacorp letter, he announced that recent statements made by Council members and School staff that have been reported in the press have played a negative role in moving the claim’s process forward.

Trivett told Council members, “We did get a letter from the insurance company, and I’m not going to comment on that letter tonight. Everything that we have said in public, even to the council, has hurt us as a school division, because it has gotten blown way out of proportion. Vacorp is looking at the paper every single week, and they are just having a field day with everything that has been written and said. And it is really hurting us, as far as our claim goes.”

Trivett said they would involve legal counsel for the remainder of the claim process, and since the issue is now in litigation, the school board will no longer divulge information or discuss anything concerning the Jan. 5 fire or the claim without prior approval from legal counsel.

Trivett said, “Our attornies have told us that this is a protected matter, and even as we have tried to be open about it, it’s been shoved down our throat like we are giving false information or misinformation. You know, I’m a little sick of hearing it.”

Trivett aired his frustrations stemming from recent events concerning the council. He said, “I think, as a board, we have done nothing but be open-minded with everything; it doesn’t matter what it is. But now, I realize why past school board members have been reluctant to say anything at Town Council meetings or to Town Council members, because it either gets twisted or turned or made to look like you’re lying or you’re not giving information, or you’re not doing this or that, and it’s...you know, I just have to say that everything we have done is to the contrary to that.”

Trivett said that he received an email from Councilwoman Brubaker. He did not go into details about the email, but he openly announced that he told Superintendent Kathleen Beane not to release the letter on the advice of the school’s attorney. Trivett told the audience that the school board did offer to let her come and view the letter personally. Trivett said that Brubaker did not come.

When discussing the Vacorp letter, Trivett said, “It’s not that we are hiding anything, it’s just the fact that we’re hurting ourselves. If you could read that letter, you would realize it, and see exactly why. Town officials have made statements that the building was condemned, and don’t you think they are not going to use that against us!”

Trivett said that no one in the town has ever told him the building was condemned, and he stated that kids were using the building up until the fire occurred.

Trivett warned that statements made by Town officials are hurting the insurance claims. He further warned that statements made that hurt the insurance claim process will be scrutinized by the school’s attorney in sworn depositions.

Trivett said, “From this point on, everything is going to be done under sworn testimony.”

Trivett believes that because of recent events and statements made,  this insurance claim could take years to settle, and he truly believes that it will only be resolved in a courtroom. Trivett said, “When it comes out, you’ll see why every little thing we’ve said has come back to hurt us and haunt us.”

Trivett said that although Virginia State Laws governing the school system do not require the school to give out information to the council freely, they have been very open and honest about everything.

Councilman Jim Chiarello spoke the week before at the council meeting, stating that he believes the building should be torn down now. At the May 14 meeting, Trivett, responding to Chiarello, said that until the insurance claim has been resolved, nothing can be done to the building. He added that one of the issues is that the insurance company has expressed that there may be parts of the building that could remain and/or be repaired. Trivett added, “However, until a determination is made by the insurance company and an agreement is reached, the school board can do nothing. Our hands are tied!”

Brubaker took the podium after Trivett spoke, indicating that she had given each member a copy of a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for not only the three-page Vacorp letter, but all emails and other documents relating to the fire, the insurance policy and the insurance claim on the two-story building that burned on Jan. 5.

As of Monday, May 19, the school board has fulfilled the council’s FOIA request and turned over the letter from the Vacorp.

—Linda Farneth

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