HCPSS MPIA Request #2020-380

Requested Information
I request a copy of the full and complete settlement agreement in the lawsuit filed by Tim Thornburg, Grace Chesney and John White against the Howard County School Board:  C-13-CV-18-000392. This should include the signed settlement agreement and any additional papers that detail the costs to the school board. This should include all bills and records of money paid to attorneys with Miles & Stockbridge, as well as any other bills received for legal work related to the lawsuit. To summarize, I’m requesting the settlement agreement itself, any related documents pertaining to costs, and all legal bills from the case.
Secondly, I request electronic copies or the opportunity to read through all transcribed depositions in the lawsuit. If the depositions are not transcribed but audio recordings, I’m ask for the chance to list to the recordings. This should include the depositions of Sandra French, Reg Avery, Gina Marsella, Kristen Coombs and all others deposed in the lawsuit.
Thirdly, I request copies of all payments made to former teacher and union president Paul Lemle from September 2017 to present. Please redact any bank account or personal information, but provide me with the amount of money paid to Mr. Lemle.
Date Received
Response Notes

Responsive to this request, as the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) provides claims insurance coverage to the Board, all costs related to this matter (including the settlement provided below and legal fees) were covered by MABE. Additionally, we have located no responsive records of payments made to Mr. Lemle during the timeframe requested.

The request for depositions taken in the civil litigation of Chesney et. al. v. Board of Education is denied for the reasons explained below.

  • This matter concerns a personal matter—the employment of 3 individuals within HCPSS. Therefore it is a personnel issue, and personnel records are exempt from disclosure under MPIA GP § 4-311.
  • Under MPIA GP § 4-301(1), which requires a custodian to deny inspection of a record if by law the record is privileged or confidential, we are denying access to the depositions as attorney work product. An attorney is obligated to keep his/her case file confidential.
  • These depositions were not filed in court. The only case law we have found addressing the availability of depositions under a public information law dealt with public court transcripts provided in a court open to the public and/or taken by a publicly paid court reporter.
  • The depositions are copyrighted by the transcription reporter—they have a right to be paid for any copy. The transcription recorder has objected to the release of these depositions.
  • In addition, if the transcripts were to be provided, dozens of hours of time would have to be spent reviewing the depositions and redacting information concerning personnel matters, student issues, and confidential items under the Court’s Order Regarding the Confidentiality of Discovery Materials. This time would be charged in accordance with MPIA § 4-206.
Responsive Documents
Responsive to this request, please find attached the signed settlement agreement related to Chesney, et al. v. Howard County Board of Education.

*Some request language is summarized to include the requester's specific document requests and legally protected information (such as personally identifiable information of a student) or personal, defamatory and malicious content removed at the discretion of the school system.

**Responses containing legally protected information available only to the person of interest are omitted from the above report.

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