The title defines one of the most critical issues to face Newport and Middletown in decades: School Regionalization. It also sheds light on the lack of transparency and conflict-of- interest issues that the leaders of the Newport School Committee failed to address as a matter of routine business.
Nowhere was this more striking than at the Newport School Building Committee meeting of Nov. 14. The meeting began oddly with Rebecca Bolan complaining that she was being publicly chastised on Facebook for allegedly withholding information about a $20 million budget shortfall on the Rogers project until after the election – even though she knew the info on Oct. 28.
The fact is this: Bolan’s and Boatwright’s actions to withhold critical information in their positions as elected officials influenced an election, cost the communities of Middletown and Newport over $250 million in education dollars, and ensured that the Newport taxpayers will get a new Rogers High School that is a skeleton of what was promised when the bond money was approved.
Neither community is happy with the current educational outcomes. Middletown approved Regionalization by 3733 (64.4%) to 2062 (35.6%) votes while Newport rejected it by 3282 (47.2%) to 3673 (52.8%). Combined – the communities voted 3733 + 3282 = 7015 (55.01%) to approve and 2062 + 3673 = 5735 (44.98%) to reject.
Outside money from Build Newport’s Future allowed for a small minority of local (and many non-local) residents to influence the Regionalization vote.
Given Bolan’s lack of transparency to those who elected her, her apparent conflict of interest, and her potential ethics violation in her attempt to mute citizens from speaking publicly, she should immediately resign her position from both the School Committee and School Building Committee.
Furthermore, Boatwright should tender her resignation for her part in defending Bolan’s actions to withhold critical information of which the citizens should have been made aware prior to the election. Serving as an elected official is an honor and privilege; Bolan’s and Boatwright’s actions have tarnished that honor.
Our communities have watched the infighting, the rudeness, and the lying. The Newport election was tainted by elected officials withholding critical information and the infusion of outside money to the Build Newport’s Future campaign of misinformation for 391 votes. Was it worth it?
Consideration should be given to the following 2 recommendations:
1: An Ethics violation should be submitted based on Rebecca Bolan’s conduct at the Nov. 14 Newport School Building Committee meeting where she attempted to mute citizens from speaking at an open meeting.
2: The RI Attorney General or the Secretary of State should open an investigation into Bolan’s and Boatwright’s withholding critical information to influence the outcome of an election with appropriate action to follow.
Submitted by Gregory Huet, Middletown resident/School Committee-elect