Gelinas, South Hadley settle for $75,000

by Town Reminder

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – Resident Luke Gelinas has settled a lawsuit against former South Hadley School Committee Chairman Edward Boiselle, in which he claimed his civil rights were violated when he was ejected from a meeting, for $75,000.
“Mr. Boisselle asked me to mediate my case against him,” said Gelinas in a statement released Monday. “I obliged.”
On April 14, 2010, the South Hadley School Committee held a scheduled meeting to which numerous members of the community attended. Residents voiced their opposition or support of calls for resignations of administrators, namely former South Hadley High School Principal Dan Smith, Superintendent Gus Sayer and Boisselle for their handling of the Phoebe Prince bullying case.
At the meeting, Gelinas began to use his three minutes allotted to those who wished to speak during the extended open forum period, during which Boisselle argued with Gelinas about a prepared statement Gelinas began to read.
According to the court transcript of their exchange, Boisselle interrupted Gelinas and said, “This information that you referred to is just the type of information that the Prince family has asked us not to disclose from day one. And I know that you said that you got it from the Prince family spokesman, but it is confidential information that should not be discussed in any way as far as this girl’s private life prior to her death.”
Gelinas was given permission to continue reading. Picking up from where he left off, Gelinas said, according to the transcript, “It is now public knowledge that there are many inconsistencies between what the principal has stated regarding his findings and the investigation and the new information.” He then called for the removal of Sayer, Smith and Boisselle, at which point Boisselle said, “I think it’s time for you to sit down, Mr. Gelinas,” eventually ejecting him from the meeting, adding Gelinas was there as “as a guest of the School Committee. And it’s your first amendment right to go outside on the street and talk to whoever wants to talk to you.” South Hadley police officers Todd Dineen and David Gagne then escorted Gelinas out.
After Gelinas filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Boisselle in 2010, it was determined last fall by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Neiman that Gelinas had presented enough evidence to support his claim, and subsequently denied Boisselle motion for summary judgment. Dineen and Gagne were also named in the lawsuit, but the court found they did not violate Gelinas’ rights.
According to court documents, Judge Neiman wrote, “Although Boisselle, at some point
late in the meeting, did allude to Plaintiff’s violation of this restriction as part of his reason for silencing him, there is no indication that Plaintiff actually revealed any such information. To the contrary, the statement that prompted Boisselle to cut Plaintiff off had nothing to do with personal details concerning the Prince family but, rather, the removal and censure of Committee members, including Boisselle.”
“The summary judgment decision by Judge Neiman speaks for itself,” said Gelinas. “My rights have been vindicated. There was no point in opening old wounds by bringing this case to trial.”
The case is Gelinas v. Boisselle, et al., C.A. No. 10-30192-KPN, in the United States District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts.
According to the statement released Monday, payment of the $75,000 has just been received by Gelinas, who says the lawsuit was not about money.
“It was about social justice, which has been served,” he said. “Most of the settlement goes to pay the expenses of litigation.”
Gelinas, who said the total amount “speaks loudly,” plans to make “some private and personal donations” from the portion of the $75,000 he retains.
His attorney, Howard Friedman, said, “This settlement shows that government bodies, even in a small town, are required to follow the Constitution. The First Amendment requires that they allow people to speak and that they do not suppress opposing views.”
Prince’s parents, Anne O’Brien and Jeremy Prince, said in a statement, “We will be forever grateful to Luke Gelinas. We are pleased that he has been able to settle his claim regarding a violation of his civil rights.”
The summary judgment opinion can be viewed at: http://www.civil-rights- law.com/storage/SJOrder.pdf.

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