Southern Berkshire school committee censures member
SHEFFIELD — Irked by what they believe is an untenable dual role as a town and school official, the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee voted 6-2 last week to censure committee member Charles Flynn.
In addition, the committee voted 7-1 to file a conflict of interest complaint against Flynn with the state Ethics Committee.
Committee member Arthur Battachi of Sheffield and Maria Rundle of Monterey voted against the censure motion, while Battachi voted against the ethics complaint.
Specifically, according to committee Chairman Carl Stewart, the committee believes that Flynn in his role in two key elective positions has at times proven to be detrimental to the committee.
"I do believe that Charlie Flynn, for whatever reason, has been operating within the school committee in way that is not good for the school," he said.
In particular, Flynn's opposition to the school budget , while advocating for Egremont's municipal financial position over the years, has not, in the opinion of some school committee members, always been constructive, said Stewart.
"I was elected to represent the Town of Egremont, not the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee," said Flynn. "I won't apologize for that."
A representative from the Ethics Committee did not return a call seeking comment. However, Stephen Bannon, the chairman of the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee, is also vice-chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Great Barrington. He has held both posts for several years.
"I think you have to realize that you have no more authority than any other member of the school committee and no more authority than any other member of the selectmen," he said.
Bannon said he wasn't completely familiar with Flynn's situation, but added that a few years ago, he voted in opposition to the school budget both as a member of the school committee and the Great Barrington Board of Selectmen.
"I thought the budget was too high, and that's what I said when I voted it down," he said. "I don't think it was inconsistent either time.
"I've never seen the two positions as particularly burdensome," said Bannon. "But I do believe I have a greater responsibility to both communities because I do both. I think you have to realize that."
Stewart pointed out that a censure vote carries no penalties.
"It's basically a committee saying, 'We don't like what you're doing,'" he said. He added that he believes disagreement is good, "most of the time."
"I think anybody who does this job, does it for the kids," said Stewart. "We have a job to do, and it's a serious job. We don't all have to agree. But we do all have to have a commitment to better the school."
Flynn did not disagree.
"I think we have an outstanding school, with outstanding students," he said. "I'm concerned about the kids and I'm concerned about our district. I think some members of the school committee are more concerned about themselves."
Flynn, who did not attend last week's meeting, said he was not frustrated by the vote.
"No," he said, "I've landed jets on aircraft carriers. I've been involved in seven deployments. This is not a big thing. I'll continue to serve the town and the school district as best I can."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
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