Northeastern board member: Peers breached legal, ethical boundaries
Northeastern school board member Christopher Leh said recently he is working with outside legal counsel on what he alleges were several unspecified incidents where his fellow board members breached legal and ethical boundaries.
The move led to a heated exchange March 15 between Leh, district solicitor William Zee and board President Margie Walker. Leh has not yet offered any specific information about his allegations but indicated at recent meetings they relate to issues regarding transparency among board members, including Walker.
Leh declined to share specifics about his allegations at several board meetings. He first brought up the allegations at the board's Feb. 15 meeting and said he was not at liberty to discuss the exact issues because he was "intentionally refused" an opportunity to speak with district counsel, which Zee refuted.
Leh did not return a request Wednesday seeking comment. Walker declined to comment Thursday.
Leh initially claimed there were five separate incidents over the course of four months that he felt broached legal and ethical boundaries. During the board's meeting March 15, Leh revised his statement to claim there were only four incidents. He said some of the illegal and unethical activities specifically involved Walker.
In February, Leh requested that Superintendent Stacey Sidle seek a formal inquiry into his allegations through the Office of the Pennsylvania Inspector General. Sidle did not return a request for comment.
On Monday, Walker addressed Leh's claims. Walker claimed Leh did not notify the board about his intent to comment at the February meeting. She said board members agreed that they will not allow future "unfounded and unsupported accusations" to be made on the public record without evidence. She said the board will use "appropriate action," including public censure, to respond to accusations or "perceived mistreatment" of board members or staff.
She described Leh's actions as "unprofessional" and said it would create "misconceptions" among the public about the board.
"We can disagree without being disagreeable," Walker said.
Leh said he stood by his allegations. He said he is in contact with government agencies and legal counsel outside of the school district. Later in the meeting, Leh clarified that he decided to seek outside legal counsel when the board shut down his efforts to bring up a problem.
"If you don't want to work with me as a board member, I will do what I have to do with the outside agencies," Leh said.
Walker said Leh's actions are not supported by the board and claimed that the board was not aware of what he was doing. Leh responded by claiming he sent several emails to her requesting the help of the district's counsel, and was "bluntly rebuked."
Zee interrupted Leh to refute this claim, saying it was "not accurate," and later invited Leh's counsel to contact him, claiming that he has not heard from them yet. Leh said Zee should not be speaking because he was not a board member, but Walker stopped him.
"Mr. Leh, you are out of order," Walker said. "I decide who gets to talk, not you."
Walker later gave Zee permission to speak in response to Leh.
"When you present some facts, then we'll have a conversation," Zee said.
Walker said the district invited Leh to an executive session March 22 to discuss his concerns, but Leh refused. He said that was because that date was too late, as he had already sought out outside legal counsel on the issue.
In an email statement, Zee again claimed that Leh's allegations of "illegal activity" were vague and had no evidence. He also claimed Leh had "direct conflicts of interest" that may contribute to his motivations behind the allegations but did not elaborate.
Leh's conflicts with Walker date back several years. In 2015, before Leh was on the board, he was assaulted by former Superintendent Shawn Minnich.
Minnich remained superintendent for about six months before the board eventually terminated him. Minnich spent less than three months in prison after pleading guilty to simple assault, making terroristic threats and two counts of reckless endangerment.
Leh criticized the board's response to the situation in 2016, accusing members of remaining silent and hesitating to suspend Minnich. Walker fought back against his accusations.
"I'm the guy that Shawn beat up," Leh said at a 2016 meeting, before being interrupted by Walker.
"Allegedly," she said, before protesting that his comment was not a board matter.
In 2017, Leh was found guilty of harassment after contacting a former Northeastern board member after police ordered him not to. Police said Leh sent text messages to the board member about his displeasure over how the board had handled Minnich.