A local attorney who led a recall effort against two Brighton school board trustees is accusing one of those trustees of filing a false police report against her.
Attorney Sarah Cross, a district parent who organized the recall effort against Brighton Area Schools trustees John Conely and Bill Trombley, spoke at Monday night’s school board meeting and alleged that Conely filed a false police report against her in an attempt to silence her efforts at the recall campaign.
Cross says Conely contacted Brighton Area School Resource Officer, Deputy Bill Schuster, and claimed that at the June 13th board meeting, a Scranton Middle School teacher told him that she witnessed another teacher purposely prop open a door to the school so that Cross could collect recall petition signatures.
Cross says Conely claimed that the incident occurred sometime between May 1st and May 15th but that both the alleged witness and teacher had provided statements to police that it never happened.
“I would not risk my career or my personal morals for Mr. Conely,” Cross told the board. “I’m 44 and I haven’t even had a speeding ticket. I certainly haven’t conspired with the teacher to recklessly endanger the lives and safety of the staff and children of our district. John Conely knowingly filed this false report. If he believed it was true, as a school board member, he had a duty of care to this district and to our children to immediately report it, not to wait over two weeks. He didn’t. That’s because it didn’t happen, and he knows it didn’t happen.”
She called it “a blatant act of voter intimidation and misfeasance in office,” adding that Conely had “learned nothing from his misappropriation of the Holocaust.”
The petition that had been seeking Conely’s ouster was based on his language in an email last year to a former district employee who asked that he vote in favor of a mask mandate for students in the district to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In that email, Conely stated “You mean like Hitler did? Mandates, we don’t have laws to support them. We are not Socialists.”
That response prompted a rebuke from Carolyn Nornandin, the Regional Director the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan (ADL Michigan), said she was “deeply disturbed” by the statement which she said was “shameful” for “connecting current health policies during a pandemic, with an administration seeking to commit mass genocide of targeted groups”.
Cross noted that Conely’s report to police came came just weeks after the May 24 school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in which 19 children and three adults were killed, and 18 others were injured.
“Now he’s taken the tragic death of innocent children and used it to retaliate against our staff and community in an attempt to undermine the recall drive,” she said. “The recall drive is a political campaign. People have the right to sign these petitions, thousands of parents’ signatures, absent of fear. Mr. Conely lost to me in court and he can’t get me fired from my job. So his next best intimidation tactic is to file false police charges against me to defame my character and to attempt to send a message to our staff into this district about the recall drive. I ask you members of this board, when will this be enough? When will Mr. Conely be held accountable for his ethical violations, retaliation and blatant harassment of our staff and community members?”
Cross’ presentation to the board came on the same day that GIGO News reported that both Conely and Trombley were accused by the district of conspiring with members of the local Moms for Liberty chapter in a series of lawsuits filed against the district last December.
The three separate complaints were filed in Livingston County Circuit Court against Brighton Area Schools Board of Education President Roger Myers, Vice President Alicia Reid, Treasurer Angela Krebs and Trustee Laura Mitchell seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the Health, HR and Policy Committee, alleging they were in violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by not being open to the public while developing policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
The lawsuits were filed by Jennifer Smith, Nicole Cullers and Susan Topoleski, who were all associated with, or members of, the Moms for Liberty group which had been outspoken at school board meetings in advocating against mask mandates and COVID testing.
However, court records show that the suits were all dropped on August 4 at the request of the plaintiffs, but not before the district and the named board members issued a response in which they accused Conely and Trombley of collaborating with the group in the legal action against the very district they were elected to serve.
“These blatantly frivolous lawsuits were filed by Plaintiffs at the behest of and in secret collaboration with Conely and Trombley to judicially harass Defendants with whom Conely and Trombley had an axe to grind because of their positions on various school board issues,”read the response.
It was also noted that the request to drop their own lawsuit followed a discovery request by the district that the plaintiffs produce “all communications related to this action, which included all emails or other communications between Plaintiffs and Conely and Trombley,” noting that at the time those responses were due, Conely and Trombley were the subjects of proposed recall petitions.
The motion to dismiss the lawsuits was granted with prejudice by Judge Michael Hatty, which means they cannot be refiled at a future date.
As for the recall, Cross says she has decided to place it on hold in light of this development and out of concern that those who signed the petitions might also become targets for harassment
When asked about the situation, Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy confirmed for GIGO News that an investigation was taking place into Cross’ allegations, and that once complete, it would be turned over to the prosecutor for a decision on whether any charges are warranted.
A request for comment has also been made to Conely and the BAS district.