PSBA Members Object to the SLAPP Suit
In support of transparency and free speech, the following school boards have passed resolutions at public meetings condemning PSBA's use of public tax dollars to file a SLAPP suit.
Butler Eagle News Story (July 27, 2017)
"Butler School Board objects to PSBA dues used in lawsuit"
Joe GencoEagle Staff Writer
July 27, 2017 Local News
BUTLER TWP — The Butler School Board Monday night lined up against its own state association over a lawsuit.
The Pennsylvania School Board Association last week filed a civil complaint in Cumberland County Court against Simon Campbell, a Bucks County resident, and his organization, Pennsylvanians for Union Reform. The complaint accused Campbell of defamation and a “relentless campaign of harassment, repeated defamations, tortious interference and abuse of process under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.” Campbell, the complaint claims, has made false and defamatory statements on his website that are not covered by the First Amendment of the Constitution to advance an anti-public school and antiprivacy agenda.
He also is accused of abusing the right to know process by sending records requests to more than 600 school entities asking for PSBA's consolidated financial statements, thus forcing the PSBA to process 600 requests for the same records, the complaint said. The lawsuit seeks an amount exceeding $50,000 together with punitive damages, interest and legal costs.
The Butler board's resolution, proposed and read out loud by board member Bill Halle, states that the board objects to the use of its PSBA dues to pay the costs of the lawsuit. “The Butler School District Board expresses its belief that the lawsuit filed in this matter is ill-advised and should be withdrawn,” it reads. Halle said that the Butler board and many school board members around the state first found out about the lawsuit from a mass-email sent by PSBA the day it was filed.
“We never asked for it. We don't support it,” he said.
The PSBA is a nonprofit association based in Mechanicsburg that represents nearly all of the public school districts and intermediate units in Pennsylvania. Butler pays about $14,000 in annual dues to PSBA, a number based on student enrollment. Member districts get access to services and resources such as BoardDocs, a web-based service used for handling agendas, documents and voting at meetings.
Campbell in an email applauded the Butler board's resolution, adding that it was the first school board in the state to take action or state an opinion about the case. His requests were lawful, he said. “Citizens of Pennsylvania should not have to live in fear of being sued for the mere act of making Right to Know law requests. When a government agency gets a Right to Know request it is that agency who decides how to handle it. Not PSBA. This bullying private corporation is out of control,” he said in the email.
District solicitor Tom King said that the district has received numerous records requests from Campbell over the years. “His right to know requests are a thing to behold. They include videos of Mr. Campbell explaining what he wants,” he said.
Campbell and the Butler district have a history. In 2011, he sued the district to acquire a full list of the names and addresses of district property owners. Butler County Judge Marilyn Horan ruled in his favor and the district released the records.