Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 9, 2009

Court notes

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 1:50 pm

Just wanted to share a few items I made note of from today’s hearing (in paraphrased form). 

After recusals, the case was heard by Chief Goldberg and justice Robinson, Suttell and Williams.

Williams started with the question – did Felkner resign as claimed by Chariho.

Gorhman – “no” – and explained that it was a “virtual resignation” according to Chariho.  He went on to explain that Title 16 (RIGL) nor the Chariho Act gives the CSC the authority to remove.

Williams – “Are you suggesting that every time there is a vote at the CSC will they be here before us?

Gorham – no, if you allow the SC to throw Felkner off, you will empower other Committees to try something like this and you will find this court hearing more cases like this.

Chief Goldberg seemed to show a bias immediately when she said, ‘your client’s conduct is not exactly sterling when he disrupted the meeting.’ – I wonder if she saw the tape of the meeting and what disruption I caused.  Furthermore, considering the CSC had 5 days notice that I would be coming to the meeting, could they have done something differently to avert this distraction?  And – if you recall when the NEA filed a complaint against me, I was not allowed to speak with the attorney.  Who made that decision?  Ricci (we have to assume because there was not board decision on the matter).  So, since the Chariho attorney had already shown that they were working for Ricci and not necessarily the SC (and certainly not me), why would I trust that attorney to give me unbiased opinions?

PLUS – I did contact Ethics and the board of elections and was given an unofficial “I see no reason you can’t” form Elections and Ethics said they don’t rule on that issue but if I do serve on two seats that I need to call them to find out if I recuse on particular issues (suggesting that they do deal with dual office holders).

But Chief Goldberg didn’t pursue that point – she just threw it out there and moved on.

She then asked, ‘how can your client hold two seats?’

Gorham – because they are not incompatible.

Justice WIlliams – what rold does the HTC have on the Chariho budget?

Gorham – nominal, there is no duty to the budget.

Goldberg – ‘are you saying the seats are coterminous and equal?  Gorham – yes.

Justice Robinson asked questions suggesting that the CSC had a fiduciary duty to all the students.

Gorham countered this saying they have a duty to the students’ education but not necessarily the financial well being of Chariho (which I agree since I believe the students’ education would improve if we implemented school choice, which may be damaging to Chariho’s bottom line.)

Goldberg – he has interests that go beyond the borders of Hopkinton. What if the CSC wants to close a HOpkinton Elementary building and move the kids to Richomond?

Gorham – he would do what he thinks is best for his constituency.

Robinson – what if Richmond and Charlestown want Chinese taught but Hopkinton doesn’t think its worth the money, how will he vote?

Gorham – as with everything else, he balances finances and constituent wishes – weighted against his philosophical beliefs.

Williams – (commenting on how the Hopkinton Charter is not written very well and is confusing on this issue) asked why didn’t you (Nick Gorham) fix the Act when you were a representative?

Gorham – had other things to do.

Williams – said that there was a Ethics complaint filed against me (this is news to me – I just called Ethics and they are not aware of anything).

Jon Anderson then spoke, emphasising that Chariho is a REGIONAL district.

Williams  – what role does the CSC have at district meetings & HTC role in the budget

JA – the CSC creates the budget – HTC is a “gatekeeper” to a Caroulo suit.

Williams – what authority does the SC have to say he is resigned?

JA – the SC is a legislative body – can regulate its members.  =  we don’t need to address the SC’s authority.

Williams – it was a gutsy move by the SC – what options did it have?

JA – none – he then read the Federalist Paper 51 – “if men were angels, no government would be needed.”

Then the rebuttal by Gorham- ‘the HTC has no authority in the Chariho budget.

Williams – why would he want to do this (hold 2 seats)?

Gorham – I think we need more like Felkner – he has an agenda he wants to see through (note – you might want to read today’s Westerly Sun article for a better answer to this question).

Williams – what happens if he disagrees with the Town Council?  What happens if he disagrees with the people who elected him?

Gorham – what he always does, votes his conscious.  The Court is being asked to define what his duties are outside of his duties to those who elected him.

I know I didn’t capture it all, so if those in attendance want to add please do.  I’m told the decision may take “weeks”

Overall, I was surprised how little discussion there was.  Apparently, the briefs hold the bulk of the arguments and this was just for clarification. I couldn’t really tell how it went other than to say Chief Goldberg had her mind made up on my behavior – which overlooked the facts regarding past dealings with the attorney that I previously mentioned.



  1. Mr. Felkner’s notes do not make me optimistic about the outcome. The Supremes weren’t focused on the legal issues, but squarely on the politics. Of what relevance to the case were the questions about how Mr. Felkner would vote? These are political issues, not legal issues.

    Why would Justice William interject information about ethics, real or not, if it was not in any of the filings? Supreme Courts are supposed to rule on the law. Unless a state Supreme Court is different than the U.S. Supreme Court, they shouldn’t be doing any fact finding beyond what is in the records.

    I understand philosophically being opposed to dual office holding. I’m not so sure where I stand myself, but the Supremes should be ruling on the law and leaving legal philosophy to the law makers to determine. In light of the questions being asked, I hope Mr. Felkner gives serious thought to serving on the School Committee if the outcome goes against Hopkinton.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 9, 2009 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  2. So there was at least the “eyebrow” raise from Williams on the manner of the CSCs choice of action.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — March 9, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  3. I find the choice of “gutsy” to be a compliment, not a pejorative word. Perhaps I’m wrong, but calling the School Committee gutsy for violating Hopkinton’s right to representation is not a good sign.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 9, 2009 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

  4. Is it Chief Justice Frank Williams that is mentioned here? Let’s not forget that he’s a Richmond resident. I wonder if he shouldn’t have recused himself as well.

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 9, 2009 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  5. From MSNBC …

    Just talk, or real prospect of reform?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — March 10, 2009 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  6. Williams is from Richmond? Well that doesn’t portend well. Based on the little I know of him, I had expected Williams to be the friendliest justice to the argument against disenfranchising Hopkinton voters. Is he politically and socially connected to Richmond, or is it just the place he lives?

    Once the Supremes rule, there isn’t any place else to go, but I don’t delude myself into think the Supreme Court is the U.S.’s equilavent of gods sitting upon Mt. Olympus. Too often our courts make political decisions rather than legal rulings.

    Most recently the Narragansett Indians lost a case where the Supreme Court majority basically found that the word “now” really means “now”. Justice Stevens didn’t agree. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of indian casinos, the law was clearly written, and amazingly Stevens disregarded the meaning of “now” and made a political decision.

    I don’t know of a better system, but when we have to worry about whether Hopkinton’s rights will be upheld based upon the politics of Mr. Felkner, or the home town of Justice Williams, then the system we have stinks.

    Gene I don’t know if Obama is behind it or just going along with it, but I’ve heard the omnibus bill contains language which will effectively eliminate the excellent, but limited, school choice program available to a couple of thousand Washington, D.C. students.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 10, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

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