I've mentioned a couple of times the Cheatham County County School Board Watchdog blog. I've applauded their efforts to monitor and hold their system accountable. They have been under fire since the beginning. From my October post introducing them:
The blog's first post is dated just weeks ago and already they've gotten the attention of the Cheatham County BOE which has had legal counsel demand certain retractions. The eight page letter also criticizes their anonynimity and calls them hypocrites and less than responsible citizens. I'm all for correcting factual errors and the lawyers make it clear the anonymous blog is a legitimate free speech outlet but it's interesting to me that the Cheatham County BOE would go to such lengths so quickly when a simple comment on the offending blog post could have done the same. The letter promises that the BOE will continue to monitor the blog for 'mischaracterizations, falsehoods and defametory statements'. Apparently, it didn't take long for these folks to ruffle a few feathers.
And, apparently, they have continued to monitor the blog.
The last RSS feed from the CCSBW blog said:
"We are Sorry
from Cheatham County School Board Watchdogs by Watchdog
We understand that this website was on the agenda at tonight's BOE workshop. We also understand that more tax paying dollars will be spent soon to send us a letter from an attorney obtained by the Director. We also understand that the Director is demanding to know all who are involved in this website. Who knew that our website would be shown at the meeting. I would ask the Director and all..."
I think that was Thursday and I didn't get a chance to read the whole thing. Friday I started getting emails from folks and a comment added to a previous post about CCSBW telling me the site was not accessible and viewing was by invitation only. Eventually, CCSBW author "Watchdog" also commented and said:
Dear Kay and all,
Thank you for all your help. We have been notified that the Director has contacted an attorney to send another letter to the our site. We are having people review our site to insure that we have not overstepped our First Admendments rights. As soon as we get clearance we will let you all know.
Thank you again.
Again, they've been threatened with libel lawsuits and so have taken the site private pending a review by attorneys to determine if anything that has been posted is actually libelious. I'm told they could really use a pro bono attorney to help them in this effort. I'm not a lawyer but I've seen far worse on sites considered much more legitimate.
I'm pulling this rather long quote from a local paper called the I-24 Exchange dated March 2, 2009, page 3. While the paper is available on-line each page is 7-8 MB and very unweildy to access and give you no clue about what part of the paper is on which link.
"In other board discussions, Director [Lynn] Siefert told the School Board on Thursday that she had taken enough personal attacks posted on a web site and was seeking legal action.
Director Seifert read through a recent anonymous posting on "Cheatham County Board Watchdogs" website that listed Seifert's salary over $98,000 and listed additional benefits and expenses including $10, 500 in postage. Seifert said the postage was an annual total for the School Board and not her personal postage account. Director Seifert said the posting declared she was deceitful including the $197,00 for bus fuel in last year's budget.
"I have requested that they not post untruths and when they directly attack my character and call me a liar, it goes beyond needing to have a thick skin to deal with just criticism," Seifert said.
Director Seifert said she had asked an attorney to write a letter to the web site owners to cease the libelous statements. "If you were thinking of locating to Cheatham County and brought up the schools on the web and got a hold of this you might think that I'm not going there where there is a thief and a liar," Seifert said.
Board Chairman Chris Speigl thanked Seifert for her work and said, "There is an element in the county through letters and under the radar in the dark that wants to intimidate through innuendos and half truths. It is time to bring them from the darkness to the light and expose it for what it is."
While the CCSBW site is down you can contact the Cheatham County School Board Watchdog folks at firstname.lastname@example.org