CMS lawyer stands by statement Myers Park students weren’t raped, apologizes to school board
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The general counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education sent an apology to the school board hours after posting and deleting a statement in response to a WBTV investigation into the handling of reports by female students that they were raped and sexually assaulted on campus.
Andre Mayes, the general counsel, emailed board members one minute before midnight on June 10, hours after the statement was posted and deleted to the CMS Board Facebook page.
The statement took issue with a WBTV investigation that aired days earlier and featured interviews with three former Myers Park High School students who detailed their experiences being raped or sexually harassed by fellow students on campus.
Two of the former students interviewed in that story had reported being raped to police and school administrators. Both women later filed lawsuits against the school, police and others alleging their reported rapes were not properly investigated and otherwise mishandled.
Mayes, in the statement posted to Facebook, discredited the women’s reports of being raped.
“Ochsner’s story focused primarily on two cases involving Myers Park students and events that occurred in 2014 and 2015. Neither case was a rape,” the statement said.
The statement claimed the story from WBTV was inaccurate but did not detail what, specifically, was inaccurate about the story.
Mayes stood by the statement in her email to board members, even as she apologized for posting it.
“I also want to take full responsibility for the statement posted on Facebook regarding the Myers Park lawsuits,” the email said.
“I understood, based on several emails, telephone conversations, information from some staff, that Board members and Principal Bosco were taking lot of hits on social media regarding the WBTV news report and that Board members wanted the misstated facts to be corrected.”
Mayes said she thought she had authorization to post the statement to Facebook but was apparently mistaken.
“I apologize for this very sensitive misstep, and I deeply regret that the statement caused further harm,” she said. “I do want you to know that the information in the statement was accurate and every fact was checked by me, Hope, and Terry Wallace, our outside counsel handling these cases.”
The email from Mayes would be responsive to a public records request WBTV submitted last month seeking emails, text messages and other records from CMS board members about Myers Park High School after the station’s first story ran.
An employee in Mayes’ office has twice stated all records responsive to that request have been produced.
Despite that, the email from Mayes—or parts thereof—has not been produced by CMS.
The email would also be responsive to a separate request from WBTV for all of Mayes’ communication regarding Myers Park High School in recent weeks. That request, like several others, has gone without any response, despite a legal requirement that government agencies produce records “as promptly as possible.”
In response to an email seeking comment for this story, Mayes claimed without explanation that her email to board members was not a public record.
“That email is a personnel record, which I have not given permission to disclose, and is not a public record,” Mayes said.
“As for your continuing claims that the district is not responding to your public records requests, that is simply not true, as I have stated to your attorney.”
A text message produced in response to WBTV’s records requests appear to show CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston was also involved in drafting the statement.
A screenshot of a text message provided by board member Margaret Marshall, whose district includes Myers Park, and produced to WBTV by the CMS public records office has Earnest Winston’s name at the top of the message and an exchange where the other person texted “we are about 30 minutes away,” in response to her asking about the status of the statement.
On Thursday afternoon, after this story was first published, a spokesman for Winston said that text exchange was not between Winston and Marshall and said Winston did not have any involvement in drafting that statement.
Similarly, Marshall said that text exchange was between her and Jeter but also claimed Winston’s name was not on the text message provided to WBTV.
An email from Charles Jeter, who works in Mayes’ office, shows board chairwoman Elyse Dashew got a copy of the statement at 7:16 p.m., roughly 15 minutes before it was posted.
“Andre, Hope, Dail, and I have all worked on this and are comfortable with the language attached,” Jeter wrote. “Assuming you agree, it is ready to go out.”
Dashew has not produced any emails that show she signed off on the statement before it was posted.
This story has been updated to include additional information regarding the text exchange with Margaret Marshall regarding the timing of the statement.
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