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Friday  •  January 17, 2020

Notes on Backroom Bullying of HCPSS Board of Education Member

By Steven Keller

Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests that were submitted following the controversial ending to this year’s HCPSS school redistricting process back in November are beginning to be fulfilled and there is some very interesting material in the MPIA responses. A response to MPIA # 2020-257 was uploaded today which shared BOE member Vicky Cutroneo’s notes taken on the ‘ratification vote’ statement that BOE Chair Mavis Ellis read on December 17, 2019.


Significant insight is provided on the back room bullying that occurred during the illegal closed session (Open Meetings Act violation) that took place after one of the motions failed in a 4-3 decision during the final redistricting vote session on November 21, 2019.


For background on this situation, it is recommended that the following posts be read in order to fully understand the shocking insight that is contained in these newly-released notes:


1) Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation & “redistricting whiplash” vote during final vote for the Howard County school redistricting plan


2) Ratification vote held on December 17, 2019 in a legal maneuvering effort hamper a request for injunction that was filed on December 12 to stop the redistricting process due to the OMA violation


3) Concerns that select Board members raised during the December 17, 2019 BOE meeting about the accuracy of the statement that BOE Chair Mavis Ellis read on behalf of the entire Board prior to the ratification vote, in which she claimed to provide insight into what happened during the illegal closed session that occurred during the redistricting final vote meeting


With that backstory in mind…..on to the notes:



On page 1, we see that BOE member Cutroneo writes the note, “There was quorum” directly countering Mavis Ellis’s statement of “Board members at different points and at different times went to the caucus room to look at data and/or figure out what to do.”


On page 2 of these notes, Ms. Cutroneo writes “No one looked at data” , again directly contradicting Chair Ellis’s statement.
The most troubling notes appear on the left side of page 2 of these notes. We see the written comments,
“ST (BOE member Sabina Taj) – screamed, yelled west”
“KC (BOE member Kirsten Coombs) crying”

“CDS (BOE member Christina Delmont-Small) –> “Stop bullying her. Don’t let them bully you.” 


In the middle of the page, we see that instead of “In the caucus room, one member said out loud something to the effect of “Now what are we going to do?” Ms. Cutroneo scratches out “said out loud” and substitutes in “screamed”.
She also notes “Another asked what just happened and there was explanation and discussion”.

Also noted at the bottom of the page is that “there was intent to discuss” and “there was discussion” in direct contradiction of Chair Mavis Ellis’s statement.


There is much to digest here. According to these notes, BOE member Kirsten Coombs was screamed at and bullied into submission to change her voteThis is just a small glimpse into what actually happened during this illegal closed session during the final redistricting vote and offers the first evidence of just how willfully misleading BOE Chair Mavis Ellis’s statement during the December 17 meeting was.


What else has the public been misled on? How can the public expect Mavis Ellis to effectively lead the BOE as chairwoman for another year when she is violating the Open Meetings Act, denying her fellow Board members the right to see and make changes to important statements that she reads on behalf of the entire Board, and willfully misleading the public with false or disingenuous statements?

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