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Home arrow Opinion arrow Letters to the Editor June 21, 2014

Letters to the Editor June 21, 2014

Uncharted Shores has taken all steps to protect children

This public statement is being issued in response to a recent article in the local Triplicate (“Ice cream vendor accused of lewd conduct,” June 17) which contained numerous factual inaccuracies regarding Uncharted Shores Academy (USA). Specifically, the article incorrectly infers that 1.) the accused is a current employee of USA, 2.) the alleged incidents occurred at USA, and 3.) Del Norte County Office of Education Superintendent Don Olson advised USA to place the employee on paid administrative leave.

To clarify, a former employee of USA has been arrested and charged with criminal conduct. The only incident which has been reported to us is unrelated to his former employment at USA. Please be assured that at the time of his employment with USA, this employee was lawfully cleared to work at the school through a thorough criminal background and reference check. Moreover, during his employment with USA, the school never observed nor was aware of any improper conduct relating to the current criminal charges against him involving any USA student. Furthermore, by the time Superintendent Olson contacted USA regarding this matter, the accused was no longer employed at the school. 

Although neither the USA governing board nor school administration can provide detailed factual responses to personnel inquiries due to the school’s legal obligation to protect the privacy rights of both former and current employees, we would like to assure the school community that the school intends to fully cooperate with law enforcement if contacted, and is taking all necessary steps to protect the best interests of its students, staff, and stakeholders. We did contact the DA’s office, and A.C. Fields, an investigative attorney for the district attorney, said, “You did all that a school can do. The details of the case are not public record.” 

We are aware that this matter has understandably caused concern. To that end, the board and school administration strongly urge the USA community to cooperate with law enforcement as necessary in their attempt to resolve this matter. 

In the meantime, the board and administration encourage everyone in the school community to exercise patience and understanding. As this matter not only affects the school but families and young students as well, please refrain from participating in circulating rumors and conjecture as doing so may add to the difficulty of these individuals’ ability to cope with this challenging situation. 

Moving forward, the school shall ensure continued review of its practices and protocols in order to provide a safe and healthy school environment for both students and staff.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns or questions.

Margie Rouge, director, 

Shari Smithson, co-director,

Uncharted Shores Academy

Editor’s note: We disagree that the story is incorrect. The story quotes Ms. Rouge saying the accused no longer works at the school. It does not say alleged crimes occurred at or were related to the school. Mr. Olson did advise the school and was quoted accurately; however, his conversation with school officials occurred after they had already taken the action he endorsed. 

It is important in news reports about charges of abusive behavior toward minors that it be noted if the suspect works in any capacity with children, and, if so, what action the employer has taken in response to the charges. We have no reason to believe nor did the story indicate that the school had anything to do with the alleged crimes other than to respond with appropriate and timely action. 

County government led 
by Board for a reason

Do you want Del Norte County to be governed by a single individual? Personally, I do not, nor did I realize this is how things work in Del Norte County after having lived here 24 years and attended countless Board of Supervisors meetings. 

It is astounding to me. And it is likely to not have come to public attention were it not for the intrepid Supervisor Gitlin, who has been rebuffed by the Board chair in several attempts to get items place on the agenda for Board discussions (see Triplicate reports on s May 27 and June 7 or see the May 27 meeting on YouTube). 

In this instance, it was Board Chairman Finigan who disallowed the placing of public prayer before meetings on the agenda, citing the Del Norte Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual, which states that a member of the Board must first consult with the chairman of said Board before an item is placed on the agenda. 

There is no question that Supervisor Gitlin consulted with Chairman Finigan on the matter, so you cannot be blamed for not understanding what the problem is. And you are not alone in that puzzlement. The relevant rule for placing items on the agenda reads: “Any member of the Board may place an item on the agenda for action after first consulting with the chairperson of the Board,” (emphasis added). Noting the emphasized portion, it is clear that it is not required that the chairperson agree with the desired item, only be consulted with and then it may be added. That is what it says. For Chairman Finigan to deny the request to place an item on the agenda merely to be discussed, on the grounds that it is a nuisance, or not timely, or personally objective would seem to place the actions of Chairman David Finigan in violation of the clause quoted from the county manual since legality is assuredly not an issue with this request.

 Supervisors Sullivan, McClure and Hemmingsen each reported having proposed items rejected by the Chair but retiringly accepted the rejections. One wonders is that acquiescence timidity, forbearance or something else? That is sheep-like behavior.

At any rate Supervisor Gitlin is not one to be sidelined with such ease and can be counted on to stand his ground. What about you? Are you with him or against him?

Dale L. Bohling, 

Crescent City

Finigan should let Board members agendize items

I think Lisa McKeown should stick to selling insurance instead of appearing at the Board of Supervisors meeting in a fit of rage. (See her outrageous personal attack on Roger Gitlin on YouTube, Del Norte County Board of Supervisors June 10, 2014 meeting.) She said she’s a “heck of a good saleswoman,” but I question that in view of the way she treats people.

Furthermore, amid the name-calling and wishing God would “prick” his heart, she failed to clearly make her case against Roger’s views. Many of us support Roger Gitlin, and we would like to hear a calm explanation from the opposition.

As a matter of fact, that is the main thing Roger has asked for. According to the Del Norte County Manual code 1.00.010.10, any supervisor may place an item on the agenda for discussion after consulting with the chairman of the board. Since the new chairman David Finigan has been seated, he has repeatedly denied Roger’s requests to put items on the agenda.

Finigan’s latest refusal was rejection of a discussion of whether to start Board meetings with a non-denominational prayer. Then Finigan decided on his own to include a silent moment of reflection prior to the meeting when the public was not included. This can’t be considered policy because it was not discussed and not voted on.

If Finigan were more equitable he would put the supervisors’ requests on the agenda for discussion and voting, and many might even be voted down. That would be fine, but he’s not doing that. He’s actually closing that door of communication.

We have things that are not right in our county. We don’t have the voice of the people here. We’re not debating at this point whether we should or should not have a non-denominational prayer. We’re debating about actually communicating about ideas. This is a much bigger subject.

Bob Sankus,

Crescent City

 

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