Police probed comments made by fired Easthampton Media boss

  • Kathleen Lynch, who was fired as executive director of Easthampton Media on May 4, was the subject of a police investigation into threatening comments she made to city school officials. Police said no crime was committed and the case has been closed pending further information. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 5/18/2018 8:09:33 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Two months before her firing from Easthampton Media, Executive Director Kathleen Lynch was the subject of a now-closed police investigation into threatening comments she allegedly made to city school officials.

In a March police report, Easthampton Detective Nicholas Weidhaas III stated that police were called to investigate comments Lynch allegedly made to and about Easthampton school officials, including the alleged statement, “I am so angry I could kill people.”

Lynch, who police said does not own a registered firearm in Massachusetts and did not commit a crime, was fired on May 4, two weeks after returning from a two-week stint of paid, non-disciplinary leave in April, Easthampton Media’s lawyer David Mintz confirmed.

The police report includes an e-mail Lynch wrote to Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle in which Lynch said she had experienced a “recurring problem” with a “passive aggressively hostile environment” and “low priority response pattern” with the Easthampton School Department.

“I have never put in so much effort to any community agency and received so little regard in return and this is very far from acceptable by any standard,” Lynch wrote in the email to LaChapelle.

In a March meeting with Easthampton Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Follansbee and Easthampton High School Principal Kevin Burke, Lynch allegedly was upset about the setup with a DVD player for an event and a dispute over billing, according to Follansbee’s statement to police.

Follansbee stated that Lynch spoke in an angry tone about not getting support from the district and the “discourtesy” she received from district employees. Lynch allegedly told Follansbee during the meeting, “I am so angry I could kill people.”

Follansbee said she was “shocked that she would say something like that,” and asked Lynch to repeat what she had said, after which Lynch allegedly repeated the same statement.

In a March 26 interview with two detectives, Lynch denied that she meant any harm and said the comments were “tongue-in-cheek.”

According to the police report, Lynch rolled her eyes and said her exact comment was, “I’m so angry right now that I could kill someone,” instead of “kill people,” but the detectives told her that her comments were concerning, particularly given the current climate where many people are concerned about gun violence.

The investigation was reopened three weeks later after Dayle Doiron, director of business services at Easthampton schools, contacted police about Lynch’s “unprofessional” behavior during a public meet-and-greet event for superintendent candidate finalist Allison LeClair, who was later hired to replace Follansbee after her retirement at the end of the current school year.

Doiron stated to police that Burke, Easthampton High’s principal, said that Lynch was “very agitated and delivered a tirade of her complaints about and grievances with the school department,” and that former School Committee member Deb Lusnia said that Lynch allegedly told Lusnia while working on a project together that she was so angry with Follansbee she could kill her, the police report said.

Because of Lynch’s “dismissive attitude” during the police interview, Wiedhaas stated that another police interview about the second alleged comments would not be of value.

Easthampton police said the investigation has been closed pending new information.

Lynch said requests for comment should be directed to her lawyer. Easthampton Media did not respond to calls and emails on Friday and had previously directed inquiries to Mintz, the company’s lawyer. Mintz said Friday evening that Lynch’s lawyer is Shannan Leelyn of Leelyn Law in Deerfield. Leelyn could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Lusnia, Kwiecinski and Follansbee all declined comment Friday, and Burke could not be reached for comment.

Formerly Easthampton Community Access Television Inc., Easthampton Media Inc. is a private nonprofit that tapes and broadcasts government meetings in Easthampton and Southampton and provides equipment, facilities and instruction to community members for television programs and videos. It is not a city agency, but contracts to tape and broadcast meetings and events in Easthampton and Southampton.

According to Easthampton Media’s website, Lynch first worked with the company from 1997 to 2000 and returned in 2010 as a digital media coordinator before becoming the company’s executive director.

In 2017, the company moved from a small space at White Brook Middle School to a 3,000-square-foot space in the Eastworks building on Pleasant Street after receiving $172,000 in cultural facilities grant money from the state.

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.

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