Mass superintendent allegedly sent threatening messages — and lied to the FBI

Crime

During an investigation, Chickpea School Superintendent Lynn Clark “attempted to cast suspicion” on other city employees and a member of her own family, officials say.

Chickpea Schools Superintendent Lynn Clark was arrested by federal agents on Wednesday. Don Treeger / The Republicans

  • Mass school superintendent arrested, accused of cheating for sending threatening messages to police chief candidate

The search for Chickpea’s next police chief, usually a routine process for any city or town, came to a halt in December when Mayor John Vue approached the FBI with a startling claim.

VU believed that a candidate for the job was forced to cancel their application because they were victims of dozens of anonymous threats, sent via text messages, demanding that They do so or else their reputation suffers, court documents show.

And so, with the police chief’s search delayed, the FBI launched an investigation that ended last Wednesday with the arrest of the city’s school superintendent, Lynn Clark.

Authorities say Clark, 51, a Chickpea native who spent his entire career serving the city’s students, admitted that he sent about 99 text messages to the victim, but other city employees and a family were suspicious. Only after lying to investigators in an attempt to Member. He has been charged with making false statements.

Although an FBI affidavit filed in federal court identified the victim as “Individual 1,” a source familiar with the investigation told Greeley Tribune Globe The man was a Chickpea police officer. It’s unclear how Clark and Officer know each other.

visual, speaking a school committee meeting On Wednesday night, Clark’s arrest has “shocked” officers.

“It is depressing and depressing, this whole situation is, again, for our schools, in our district and for the city of Chicopee,” he said.

Clarke appeared in federal court in Springfield last week and was released on bail.

Let’s know about this matter so far:

In some texts, photographs were sent to the officer, one of whom was driving Clark’s car, court documents say.

The officers wrote in the affidavit that Vieau contacted the FBI on December 3 and told officers he would delay selecting a new police chief until the city determined who was behind the threatening messages. .

According to the police officer who received him, the messages started in November, when his application for the post was still pending.

Special Agent Timothy Barth wrote in the filing, some of the messages, which were sent from multiple anonymous phone numbers, contained “personal material (officers) previously sent to Clark using his personal e-mail account.”

The officer said Clark was the only person with whom he shared that information, although he believed Clark also received threatening messages from unknown numbers, Barth wrote.

“Clark forwarded messages that he (officer) received, at least one of which read, ‘Have (him) bow down’,” Barth wrote. “The (officer) understood this as a directive to pressure Clark to withdraw (his) application for chief of police.”

Barth wrote, Clarke showed the officer a text depicting the officer and his spouse, along with a text – which also received texts – that Barth wrote. The officer had earlier admitted that the photograph did not exist in digital form.

According to Barth, Clark met with investigators in Springfield on December 6 and confirmed his cell phone number.

She told officials that she first received the message on November 6, that she did not know who had sent the text, and that she was concerned that public disclosure of the information in the messages would damage her reputation, Barth wrote.

According to Barth, Clark, who deleted every message from his phone, said he also found a photo of the officer driving his car near a toll plaza. The FBI later confirmed that the image was taken by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and sent to Clark as part of a toll bill.

Additionally, Clark named several of the officer’s aides, whom he suggested may have been responsible for the messages, Barth wrote. He said photographs of the officer and his wife, which he had kept in his work locker, may have been stolen from his office.

Weeks later, Clark requested another meeting, which took place on January 11, Barth wrote.

“Clark was concerned that the investigation into threatening text messages was harming his reputation as the superintendent of Chicopee schools,” Barth wrote. Clarke also “was concerned that the investigation was ‘ripening the city’.”

Officials allege that 99 messages were sent to Clarke’s phone through a ‘burner app’.

The delay in selecting the city’s next police chief had a “significant impact on essential government work”, Barth wrote.

Because of that, agents “took several investigative steps and allocated sufficient resources” to determine the culprit, Barth wrote.

“Many of the investigative steps the agents took were based, in part, on information provided by Clarke,” he wrote.

The investigation found that in total, the officer, his wife, and Clark received about 99 threatening text messages sent by “fictitious phone numbers,” according to Barth.

“Each fake phone number was provided by the same mobile application, colloquially known as the ‘Burner App’, which allows users to send anonymous text messages and make anonymous phone calls,” he wrote in the affidavit. Allows you to hide your real phone number.” ,

Records from the app company, cell service providers and other sources show that each message was sent by phone numbers Clark purchased on the app using a device that used Clark’s home IP address, Barth wrote.

Records also show that a fourth number of non-threatening messages were sent through the app, later confirmed to be related to the Twitch Department of Public Schools and assigned to Clark as a work phone, Barth. wrote.

Additionally, records indicate that Clark used the app on his cell phone at the same time that the messages were sent, he wrote.

‘How is this helping the city?’: Clarke writes to FBI agents that whatever the investigation finds, ‘nothing will help me personally.’

On January 17, Clark again reached out to the FBI to inform agents that his cell phone number had been changed.

A few days later, on January 23, Clarke emailed Barth a list of the topics and concerns she wanted to discuss, Barth wrote.

Clarke asked what crime was committed and he wrote, “It doesn’t matter what person, group of people or individuals it is.” [investigation] Points out – this was not reported by us and a piece of it was probably self-service… I just think nothing and I repeat, nothing – would personally help me. How is this helping the city?”

Clark wanted the officer to ‘knock down a peg’, he told investigators.

After several more emails from Clarke, Barth met her again on February 7.

Barth wrote, “At various points during the interview, Clark attempted to distance the investigation with threatening messages and attempts to prevent agents from pursuing the investigation.”

According to Barth, Clark allegedly made false statements, including that he did not know who sent the message and that he had not downloaded the Burner app.

Clark said it was “in the best interest of all involved … to close the investigation with ‘no finding’,” Barth wrote.

Clark named a city employee and a family member as potential suspects for the texts, according to Barth, who wrote to Clark that he knew that providing false information could make investigations more difficult for agents. Is.

Investigators then confronted Clark with their findings that she was allegedly responsible, and that’s when Clark said she downloaded the Burner app and sent text messages.

Barth wrote, “He felt that if (the officer) became the chief of police, it could negatively affect his position as the superintendent of Chikopy schools.” “Clark felt (the officer) made many achievements based on Clarke’s work; and Clarke wanted (the officer) to ‘knock down a peg’.”

According to court documents, Clark also told investigators that he hid the Burner app on his phone and removed and re-downloaded the application. He had previously used similar applications as the superintendent to contact parents, she said.

Clarke searched for a photo of the officer and his wife at a wedding online and told the officer that he did not know who sent him the picture, he said. Clarke even admitted to sending a picture of the toll plaza, Barth wrote.

Neither Clark, a Belchertown resident, nor his attorney responded to requests for comment. globe on Wednesday.

‘She was doing a great job’: Clark started out as a substitute teacher and became an ‘excellent’ superintendent, local officials said.

When Clark became superintendent in 2019, his appointment came after decades of climbing the ranks at Chickpea schools, according to Republicans of Springfield,

Her years of experience meant she had the “right stuff” to run the school system, said then-superintendent Richard W. Rege, Jr. said.

“She can take the right steps and it will be a smooth transition,” Rege said. “You are putting the district in capable hands.”

Clarke got her start in Chickpea classes as a substitute teacher, before being hired to work full-time as an English teacher as a second language teacher.

Her resume includes teaching kindergarten and second grade, as well as time as principal of Anna Barry School and later Fairview Middle School. Republican informed of.

She went on to serve as principal and then assistant superintendent of the Stephanic school.

Eventually, in February 2020, Clark began working as superintendent – ​​a job that paid her $175,000 last year.

“She was doing a great job,” said school committee member Donald Lamothe. said globe on Wednesday. “Whatever school she went to, the MCAS scores went up. so it was naturally appropriate for him [superintendent] Work.”

Lamothe, Inn Clark’s assessment For 2020-2021, even, “all things considered, the work Ms. Clark has done in her first year has been outstanding.”

The school committee put Clark on leave – and asked him to resign.

On Wednesday, the Chickpea Schools Committee voted to place Clark on paid administrative leave, effective immediately, and asked Clarke for his resignation.

“I think it is necessary to ask for his resignation because he has admitted to lying,” said Ward 5 committee member Grace Schofield. “And it’s a role model for our schools… I just have a real tough problem leading our school district, lying.”

After an 8–3 vote, it was discussed whether Clark should be paid while on leave.

“I’m just feeling uncomfortable … paying him,” said Ward 2 committee member David Barsalu.

However, a city attorney told the committee that the city typically waits for further developments in criminal cases—such as the issuance of indictments—before placing employees on unpaid leave.

Several committee members and assistant superintendents – who would assume Clark’s duties during the leave of absence – insisted that they continue to focus on the students and their needs in light of Clark’s arrest.

“There appears to be no connection between the allegations against the superintendent and the operation of our school district,” said Mayor Vieu, based on the city’s current information.

“We stand ready for continuity of leadership as needed,” he said.

Baraslow described Wednesday as a “tough, tough and trying day”.

The arrest, he said, “was a huge, dark cloud over the city.”

“I just hope from tonight that we can start the healing process so that we can move forward because … we have to do what’s best for our kids,” he said.

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