Easton Area School District Redacts 235 Records Related to Delayed Construction of Palmer Elementary School

Easton Area School District decided to redact 235 emails or about 98% of the records they have stated exist as they finally respond to an appeal on a Right-to-Know Law request.

In September, I filed Right-to-Know Law requests against the Easton Area School District (EASD) and Palmer Township governments to collect information regarding their plans and attempts to seize and destroy a family’s property with an unnecessary stormwater system. Easton Area School District requested a 30-day extension but then elected to respond with only a few pages of invoices (PDF here) on November 1. Their lack of a complete response was in open defiance of the Right-to-Know law, so I appealed to the Office of Open Records in Harrisburg.

Rather than fulfill the request, EASD sought to have my appeal denied per their attorneys’ letter (PDF here). EASD’s Michael Simonetta formally attested that “more than 3000 pages of emails were identified as potentially responsive to the request” but of course did not share any of them (see PDF here). The attorney from the Office of Open Records politely pointed out a response was required on the 3000 pages which resulted in their reply yesterday, December 9th.

The EASD response was 32 emails consisting of 52 pages. The PDF is not being released by me just yet as it has some private taxpayer emails that perhaps should have been hidden by EASD. However, these emails are very perfunctory and consist mainly of emails from either the press or the homeowner under eminent domain threat to school district officials so by themselves are not relevant at this time. [1/12/2020 Update – received updated PDF from EASD after privacy concerns addressed]

EASD chose to redact 235 email records listed on 17 pages (see the Redaction Log PDF here and EASD attorney attestation PDF here). Since they referred to “3000 pages of emails,” this means about 98% of the documents EASD recognized as responsive to this request are being held in secret from the public. As the new Palmer Elementary School construction issue has been going on for well over 2 years, the public certainly has a right to know what is going on.

The school district’s decision to keep all of these documents secret from the public is ironic and disappointing considering the new superintendent’s public vow to improve the district’s reputation for its lack of transparency. The new superintendent, David Piperato, would do well to investigate this matter personally as he vowed to do when he said:

“You have to be present with the members of your community. You have to go to them and gather that information as opposed to sitting in your office.”

In my opinion, any rational person with an open mind would decide – once and for all – to stop using government violence to attack the homeowner to build an unnecessary stormwater drain. I must pay hefty school taxes to EASD so I plan to continue uncovering more data for the public to be better informed on this matter since the initial government responses have been so opaque.

I plan to update the public further on this case and also my similar but separate case against Palmer Township – which is also under appeal – as time rolls on. I welcome any responses from the public to the documents released above.

For some background, Eric Adams’ family has been threatened repeatedly by Easton Area School District for about 21 months. The Easton Area School District, in cooperation with the Palmer Township government, threatened the use of eminent domain to seize and destroy a good portion of his family’s property to dig up his yard to install 400 feet of sewer pipe, destroying some massive trees and installing a large boulder field, known as a rip rap apron, that would lead to the routine flooding of his property. Ostensibly, they have claimed this work, which would likely cost school district taxpayers an estimated $1 million, is needed for the new Palmer Elementary School, but engineers hired by Adams concluded the new stormwater system is totally unnecessary as I highlighted in my September 25, 2019 post “Palmer Family Defies Easton School District’s Wanton Spending Plans.”

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