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Stolz Admits Leaking East Penn School Board's Confidential Memo

Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association gets a confession at a "Meet the Candidates" night.

On an evening in which “more government transparency” was the favorite catch phrase, a member of the East Penn School Board publically admitted to being the one who leaked a confidential memo to a Patch reporter in January.

Julian Stolz, who is running for reelection and whose future on the school board will be determined by the upcoming primary election on May 17, stated that he was responsible for sharing the confidential memo from Superintendent Dr. Thomas Seidenberger. His admission came as part of a “Meet the Candidates” night Tuesday, sponsored by the Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association (CEPTA).

Stolz owned up to his role in the memo’s disclosure in response to an audience member’s question, directed at the three incumbents on the panel of school board candidates in attendance, asking for “a simple yes or no answer to a simple question: Did you leak the memo?”

“Yes I did,” Stolz said. “Would I do it again? Absolutely. I did it because it was information that the public needed to know.”

The memo in question was sent by Seidenberger to the board and detailed numerous programs, classes, activities and jobs that could be in jeopardy if the district did not get more revenue.

Stolz and nine other candidates for the East Penn School Board participated in the CEPTA candidates’ night, held in the South Sixth and Broad streets.

The school board candidates on the panel were, in alphabetical order: Scott Aquila, Kenneth Bacher, Charles H. Ballard, Lynn Donches, Jennifer Gilbert, Brian Higgins, Phillip Garrett Rhoades, Samuel Rhodes, Julian Stolz,  and Waldemar R. Vinovskis.

According to CEPTA’s format, each candidate was allowed a two-minute introduction, followed by questions from the audience. The Q & A period was supposed to be followed by a closing statement by each candidate.

However, the 100 or so people in the audience had so many questions for the board candidates that moderators asked them to vote, by show of hands, as to whether the Q&A period should continue in lieu of closing statements.

The vote to continue with the audience questions was unanimous.

CEPTA’s candidates’ night also included candidate panels from other local primaries, including Emmaus Borough Council, Lehigh County Commissioners, Lehigh County Judge and Upper Milford Township Board of Supervisors. Patch will bring you more on the CEPTA “Meet the Candidates” night on Wednesday.

JulianS April 20, 2011 at 07:04 PM
I did ask Dr. Seidenberger (at a public meeting) why he decided to keep the contents of this memo confidential. His reply? "It was my option". It was at that point that I emailed a copy of the memo to the Emmaus Patch reporter.
Scott Bieber April 30, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Mr. Stoltz indeed sent me the memo after I asked him for it. He represents open government. The confidential memo was mentioned at the public board meeting and at that point it became non-confidential. Mr. Ballard indicated to me after the meeting I could get a copy from the secretary, though Mr. Ballard said later he was referring to another document and I take him at his word. However, had I been refused the document I would have pressed the board to release it because there is nothing in the memo that is protected from publicity either under the right-to-know law or the sunshine act. In fact, the subject of the memo was improperly discussed by the board in a "clear" (executive) session. The board should not be afraid to let the public see this information. Its revelation was not a big deal, did no harm and provoked spirited discussion within the community, which is as it should be.
Scott Bieber April 30, 2011 at 02:15 AM
I find it interesting that Jeri and Erik think the memo should not have been publicized. Their reasons seem elitist or arrogant. Jeri described the memo as containing "information that is not yet ready for public consumption." So I guess we should leave it to our leaders to decide when the public is ready to consume its information. Erik talked about "how best to disseminate the information to the public." I believe these viewpoint reflects the improper notion that our leaders know best what and when the public needs to know. This viewpoint may be applicable in private business but not in government. I believe practically all government information is public information. I have served and serve in a public capacity and I have no problem releasing harmless information to the public. Government officials forget they are not masters but servants to the public. The public has the right to know most everything being discussed in government, especially spending and taxes.
Erik Zane May 01, 2011 at 04:33 PM
No, my reason is that Julian is on a board, and should have voted, with the board, to decide what to do. Instead, he did what he wanted to do. Your presenting the case that the responsibilities of a board member is to do whatever they want, not work with the rest of the board. Julian's behavior is not what I want in a board member, public or private. I'd also ask: Who defines what is, and what isn't, harmless? You? Hardly. It's the board's job, not Julian's solely, nor yours solely, to decide what information is or is not harmless. You should also consider whether you really want to offend your readers like you're doing right now. Real journalists aren't supposed to comment on the news, just report it, and I feel commenting with opinions and not just facts on an issue that's directly related to story you wrote goes a step too far. Are you a real journalist, or just an opinion generator? If it's the latter, then I'm sorry I wasted my time responding to you.
Scott Bieber May 01, 2011 at 06:00 PM
No, I am no longer the reporter covering the east penn school board, which is why I believed I could comment on this issue. I would not have commented had I still been the reporter, even though Patch allows reporters to comment on subjects they write about, which I think is journalistically improper. At this point I am simply rendering opinons, just like you. And I have to agree that perhaps Julian should have talked with his fellow board members about whether to release the memo, but he did not and we don't really know if he had talked to them about it and they said no and he disagreed and then released it because he thought it right for the public to have the information. At the end of the day I firmly believe the public has the right to know most everything their government representatives talk about. The only harmful information that I can think of that should not be disclosed are personnel issues, litigation settlement issues, pending real estate transactions and contract negotiation issues. Taxes and spending issues belong in the open and can never be defined as "harmful."

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