New: School Committee member will not drop complaint

School Committee member Brian Ota filed a discrimination complaint against Superintendent John Buckey.

Newly elected School Committee member Brian Ota will not drop a discrimination complaint he has filed against Superintendent John Buckey, he told the Marblehead Current.

“I am continuing on” with the complaint, Ota wrote in an email.

Upon being sworn in two days after the June 20 election, Ota filed a “disclosure of appearance of conflict of interest” with the Town Clerk revealing that he had filed a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a copy of which was obtained by the Current. Ota had not mentioned his complaint, which under the MCAD process is confidential, during the School Committee campaign.

The complaint

Ota’s contract as Glover School principal was not renewed after the 2021-22 school year.
“I was a successful principal at the Glover School and was not rehired,” Ota lists as the reason for his discrimination complaint.

Explaining the possible conflict of interest with his campaign, Ota wrote, “The School Committee has two jobs: approving the budget and evaluating, hiring or firing the superintendent.”

Asked by the Current if he felt he should have let voters know about his complaint during the election, Ota replied, “No.”

Ota said he contacted the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission before he announced his candidacy.
“They gave me recommendations as to how to deal with this issue if I win the election,” Ota explained. “I have and will continue to follow their recommendations.”

Ota said one of the recommendations was to file the disclosure report.

Ota declined to provide documentation of his correspondence with the Ethics Commission.

During the public comment period at the June 30 School Committee meeting, Paul Baker, an unsuccessful candidate for the seats won by Ota and Jenn Schaeffner, asked Ota, “Having been elected to serve our school district, will you now drop your wrongful dismissal complaint against the district?”

He continued, “If your answer is ‘no,’ I respectfully ask that you recuse yourself from all budget discussions and/or votes until your complaint is concluded.”

School Committee Chair Sarah Fox defended Ota’s decision not to reveal his complaint to voters.
“I have no concerns and believe Mr. Ota proactively followed all required steps with the state and town to properly make sure no ethical violation existed,” Fox said.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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