Precinct 333

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Board Let’s Public Speak After All

It seems that the Hampshire County Board of Education is willing to let the public speak about district employees after all. Following discussions with the state ethics commission, the board decided to unmuzzle the public, provided that the comments did not become “defamatory or slanderous,” as determined by the board president.

Wanda Carney of the education-watchdog group West Virginia Wants to Know urged Hampshire residents to keep attending meetings and demanding action on the man at the center of a scandal that has embarrassed the community.

"You pay Mr. Mezzatesta's salary. You pay Mr. Friend's salary. You have a right to ask these elected officials to fire these two men," said Carney, a Kanawha County resident whose group filed the first ethics complaint against Mezzatesta.

Mezzatesta pleaded no contest in Kanawha County Magistrate Court in December to altering and destroying legislative computer records amid the ethics probe. He is under investigation by a special prosecutor in Hampshire County concerning whether an affidavit that he gave to the Ethics Commission last year was false.

Mezzatesta has declined to discuss his job status and took his family on a vacation out of state this week.

A recent audit by the state Office of Education Performance Audits was highly critical of the county's hiring procedures. The audit prompted the state Board of Education to strip Hampshire of its accreditation and declare a state of emergency.

Carney said she believes the local board will never act against Mezzatesta but the state will take over the troubled district in April, "and they will do this task for you."

Sounds like there is a lot more at work in this than a fundamental disrespect for the rights of citizens. Hopefully the situation will get cleaned up sufficiently to let the district return to a focus on its primary task – the education of its students.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.