School bus drivers attended the Lancaster School Board meeting Tuesday night, many of them critical of the district’s transportation supervisor, Robert W. Mowry, who is the target of discrimination complaints from at least six female employees.
But before anyone was allowed to speak, the board leadership said that no one would be allowed to speak about any person or personnel issue.
“As a board, we cannot address personnel issues in a public forum,” board President Marie F. MacKay told the audience.
Board member Kenneth E. Graber said comments about a particular employee should be directed privately to Superintendent Michael J. Vallely or the district’s administrative assistants.
“It can’t be made public,” Graber said. “As a body, we are interested in what the public has to say. This is the way to do it.”
Some who had prepared to comment to the board about Mowry said later that they felt silenced and intimidated by the board. An estimated 25 to 30 drivers attended the standing-room-only meeting. Some of the drivers support Mowry, but none of them spoke publicly, either.
“I felt we were blindsided,” said Karen H. Shafer, a retired Lancaster dispatcher and union vice president who drove a school bus for 18 of her 22 years with the district. She never filed charges against Mowry but said that she was the first to be targeted by him and that he was the reason she retired.
“They knew we were coming to the meeting and wanted to keep it out of the public eye,” she said.
A Buffalo News article two weeks ago quoted several bus drivers who alleged they had been bullied, harassed and intimidated.
The board met in executive session twice Tuesday night: before the public meeting and again afterward, for an unspecified personnel matter.
Mowry, who has declined to comment on the accusations, did not attend the board meeting.
Vallely also has said he cannot comment on the specific accusations. After the meeting, MacKay said a Freedom of Information request would have to be filed to learn of specifics of personnel action taken by the board.