BRADENTON -- A public records request filed by Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner reveals messages sent between former Manatee County Superintendent Rick Mills and staff attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum on the night of a contentious meeting where Teitelbaum was accused of breaking the law.
In the messages, Mills says:
Gause was lying on the dais about the situation;
Teitelbaum can "survive" the situation but questions whether Teitelbaum would want to; and
District auditor Byron Shinn "rolled" on Teitelbaum and asked whether Shinn's contract is up for renewal.
The messages were released Aug. 10 to Miner in response to his Aug. 4 public records request. Miner forwarded the information to the media Thursday saying the community might find the responses "of interest and importance."
"I think it's important the community and the media be aware of what's going on," Miner said.
Miner is named in a lawsuit pending against the Manatee County School District involving his own emails. A company hired by the district last year to provide security officers in the elementary schools claims Miner has not made his emails available for inspection under
the Sunshine Law.
During the July 28 meeting, board Chairman Bob Gause accused Teitelbaum of breaking the law when he gave Gause's bank information to the FBI. Teitelbaum maintained he did not break the law because the information was not confidential, it was an inadvertent disclosure and the act was rectified.
Gause asked whether Teitelbaum had been punished and if new Superintendent Diana Greene would investigate the issue further.
Gause's accusation gained traction with Miner, who raised the issue again at the Aug. 11 meeting, where he questioned Teitelbaum's integrity and whether the attorney should still be employed by the district.
At the Aug. 11 meeting, Gause said he met privately with Greene and Teitelbaum to discuss the issue, was satisfied with the response and did not want to pursue it.
Miner continued to push the issue. During the meeting, Miner's statements implied Teitelbaum should be disciplined further, saying he would fire a lawyer who made such a mistake.
Other board members said they should not "bully" staff members and should be respectful.
"When there's an issue in front of us, I don't think we should ignore it. That's what I brought it up tonight," Miner said.
Miner said Thursday there were more responses to his request concerning Teitelbaum's actions, but the responses were too big to forward and he would send them Friday morning.
In the texts released between Mills and Teitelbaum, Mills asks whether a lawsuit had been filed against the district, because Mills thought a process server had showed up at his house. Mills then texted Teitelbaum about the ongoing board meeting discussions.
"Gause said last Oct he did not want to pursue anything further on his bank account ... now it is an issue," Mills wrote.
"Agreed," Teitelbaum responded.
Mills texted Gause told him not to do anything further in regard to discipline at the time, "then lies tonight that enough wasn't done."
Teitelbaum tries several times to end the text exchange, but Mills continues to pursue it.
Mills said Thursday the texts were a "simple exchange" about what he viewed as "inaccuracies" during a school board meeting. Mills said he was not watching the meeting when someone alerted him to what was going on, so he texted Teitelbaum.
Mills said he didn't understand why Miner would spend his time looking at text messages between him and Teitelbaum instead of focusing on more pressing issues facing the school district.
"Dave Miner is wasting energy on insignificant things," Mills said.
Teitelbaum's responses to Mills were based on "intense" questioning he was undergoing at the time, he said.
During the exchange, Teitelbaum asked Mills to let him cool down and said they would talk later, ending with: "Worst job I ever had."
Teitelbaum said Thursday the texts from Mills were unsolicited and unexpected. Teitelbaum said he is not in regular contact with Mills.
"I responded to the former superintendent out of courtesy," Teitelbaum said. "In hindsight, I should not have."
Teitelbaum compared the situation to the opening of the Charles Dickens' novel, "A Tale of Two Cities," saying it was the best of time and the worst of times for him.
"I love my job in serving the district and the children. Period," Teitelbaum said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.