Easton Area School District Ordered by Harrisburg to Turn Over ‘Privileged’ Palmer Elementary Records for Legal Review

Attorney Jill Wolfe from the Office of Open Records (OOR) in Harrisburg has ordered Easton Area School District (EASD) to turn over 235 redacted emails and other records by February 12, 2020, for an in camera review. This means the OOR will review the records and determine what parts can be shared with the public. These documents all involve the controversial stormwater system for the new Palmer Elementary school. A final decision on my appeal is anticipated by May 21, 2020. Please see below or read the PDF of the order and letter here.

In September 2019, I filed Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) requests against 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. EASD did not provide anywhere near a complete response in open defiance of the law, so I appealed to the Office of Open Records in Harrisburg.

Rather than fulfill the request, EASD initially sought to have my appeal denied per their attorneys’ letter (PDF here). EASD’s Michael Simonetta formally attested that “more than 3,000 pages of emails were identified as potentially responsive to the request” but initially did not share any of them (see PDF here). After the OOR review, it is possible many of these secret documents will be shared at long last.

For some background, Eric Adams’ family has been threatened repeatedly by EASD for about 2 years. The EASD, 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 may lead to additional flooding of his property.

Local elected government leaders 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. They are doing this despite the fact that the new Palmer Elementary project will reduce the current site’s stormwater runoff by >50% without the million-dollar drainage system. Sounds unbelievable? You can view and listen to the EASD engineers’ January 7 update to the school board here. Included in the footage is Eric Adams addressing the board and myself informing the board of the issues I have been having with my RTKL requests.

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