Rehoboth Officials Claim Legal Victory
The Rehoboth Board of Selectmen praised a court decision which they said will grant the town access to the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District’s financial records. However, Dighton-Rehoboth Superintendent Anthony Azar said the court ruled in favor of the school district, not the town.
“Last Friday the Superior Court issued a decision granting summary judgment in favor of the Town of Rehoboth in the first of two lawsuits brought by the Town against the Dighton-Rehoboth school district in the Bristol County Superior Court,” Chairman Skip Vadnais said Monday.
Vadnais was critical of comments made on December 17 by Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School Superintendent Anthony Azar.
“This is a bittersweet victory for our school district due to the resources that have been expended,” stated Azar. “The school district spent approximately $140,000 to defend against this unfortunate lawsuit, and we now await the figure of how much the town spent in its pursuit of their false narrative”.
“A fundamental question that one would ask is how the Rehoboth BOS can continue to attack its own school district, when the actual decision rendered by Justice Jackie Cowin states, “the district has a duty to act in the best interests and the benefits of its students, not the town’s Board of Selectmen.”
“In its decision, the Court rejected all arguments advanced by the District and ruled that the Town is entitled to inspect all financial records of the District on an annual basis upon written request by the Board of Selectmen. The Court’s decision ensures the Town complete access to the District’s financial records, which is something the District had fought to prevent in years past. The Court’s ruling now enables the Town to review, scrutinize, and audit the financial practices of the District on an annual basis if it so chooses,” Vadnais said.
Azar maintains the decision said that the Regional Agreement does not vest any right in the Town's Board of Selectmen to obtain the District’s records.
“The district is obligated to continue to provide records each year through the production of the annual report, which the district never disputed,” Azar said, noting that during his tenure, he, along with his administrative team, have always presented to the public the budget and the towns’ assessment according to the regional agreement.
Azar added “the District will continue to reach out to the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen in order to work collaboratively with them in the future. Despite this bittersweet victory, we are committed to present our budget in a timely manner as we have done in the past years.”
“The Board of Selectmen has reviewed a written statement issued by Dr. Azar on Friday, which falsely claims that the District was successful in this lawsuit,” Vadnais said. “It is our understanding that Dr. Azar’s statement was made without vetting by, or approval of the School Committee. Dr. Azar's statement appears to be nothing more than an attempt to gaslight the citizens of Rehoboth into believing that the Court's ruling was anything less than a total victory for the Town.”
“The superintendent is duty bound to report on information to the school district and community at his/her discretion without vetting or permission from the school committee,” Azar said Tuesday. “The (school committee) can put out their own news release. Since the committee was not meeting again until January, I thought a response was timely to share out to our school district and community.”
Vadnais also said: “It is now clear why the District had fought so ardently to preclude the Town from reviewing and scrutinizing its financial records because the records produced by the District as a result of the first lawsuit have revealed, among many other things, that the District has grossly mismanaged its finances, misclassified capital improvements as ordinary budget items in violation of State Law, entered into multi-million dollar contracts for solar and HVAC conversion contracts without notice to, or approval of Town meeting as required by the Regional Agreement, and comingled/utilized student activity funds with its operating funds. The Town will not tolerate the District’s unlawful conduct and will continue to pursue the District in the second lawsuit for all remedies available to it in law and equity.”
“The Town was successful on its principal and core count in the complaint and was awarded all relief it sought therein by the Court,” added attorney Eric Brainsky, who represented the town of Rehoboth. The ancillary counts were denied, but the result is the same. Arguing otherwise, is akin to arguing the difference between a game winning homerun that goes into the first deck or one that travels to the upper deck…either way, that homerun has nevertheless won the game.”
Last September, the town filed a lawsuit alleging the School District and School Committee violated the terms of its regional agreement with the town by undertaking and funding two capital projects costing $15 million which occurred without the approval of town meeting.
Those funds were used for the purchase and installation of solar arrays and heating and air conditioning in and on the grounds of various schools operated by the district.
In October, attorneys for the School District retaliated by filing seven counterclaims, alleging Rehoboth “knowingly, maliciously, and falsely alleged” that the district is in default of the TD Equipment Finance, Inc. May 2016 contract, Rehoboth has tortiously interfered with the August 2017 contract between the District and Bank of America, and as a result of “Rehoboth’s intentional, malicious interference with the District’s contract, the District has suffered harm.”
In addition, the attorneys requested a declaratory judgment stating the court has “no authority or jurisdiction to de-regionalize the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District.”
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