Lehighton school director files lawsuit
A Lehighton Area School District director put his name Monday to a second lawsuit in Carbon County Court against the district alleging Sunshine Act violations.
The latest complaint stems from an Aug. 27 meeting, when board member David Bradley Sr. said a citizen was prevented from speaking before an official action was taken.
“Larry Stern (Lehighton board president) allowed others to speak before the vote on the new motion, but specifically impeded, and prevented, Tom Wertman, a citizen and veteran, from speaking,” Bradley, who is representing himself, wrote in the complaint.
The motion referenced in the lawsuit was to allow public comment at the end of a board meeting without having to fill out a form before the meeting starts, which is current district policy.
The board voted it down, with several members requesting the proposed change go through the policy committee first.
“If you had the opportunity to speak, your comments may have sparked other ideas within the community,” Bradley told Wertman. “It is our school policy to engage all stakeholders.”
Wertman was eventually given the opportunity to speak and supported the district’s policy that requires the public to fill out a form if they want to comment at a meeting.
At Monday night’s board meeting, Bradley made a motion for the district to formally apologize to Wertman, who said he didn’t need one.
“Mr. Stern did not intentionally mean to overlook me,” Wertman said. “Mr. Stern recognized after things were said, he did correct himself, I don’t think I need an apology. Shame on you Mr. Bradley for trying to use me to exploit this.”
Bradley took issue with a district policy that requires residents to fill out a form before the start of a board meeting if they wish to make public comment.
“History shows these tendencies to silence a community go back decades,” Bradley wrote. Comments from stakeholders can combine to make our government a government of the people, by the people and for the very people that live across America, and attend our government meetings.”
Director Wayne Wentz questioned Bradley’s motives with the lawsuit.
“I’ve known you a long time, Mr. Wertman, and I think you are being used for (Bradley’s) benefit, not ours, and certainly not yours,” Wentz said.
“I definitely agree with you,” Wertman responded.
The Lehighton Area School Board is the only defendant listed in the most recent case, while Bradley and the “Community of Lehighton” are listed as plaintiffs.
A copy of the complete minutes from the Aug. 27 meeting, where the violation is alleged to have occurred are available at https://bit.ly/2QQ2cKi. The discussion on the board’s public comment policy begins at the bottom of Page 62.
Bradley also joined Frances Flickinger and Janice Bowman in filing a lawsuit against the district and Stern in December.
The trio allege Stern called for an official vote on a non-agenda item on Dec. 4, “without calling on Bowman or Flickinger, who had their hands raised.”
They also allege Stern refused to allow public comment at a Dec. 21 meeting.
In an answer to the lawsuit, which is still pending, Stern denied seeing any hands raised by audience members and said no board member alerted him that a member of the public wanted to make a comment.