Grasmick threatened to remove Twombly School board member left before misconduct charges were aired

August 01, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Thomas R. Twombly quit the Anne Arundel County school board before allegations that he made intimidating and abusive remarks to county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham and a fellow board member could be aired in public.

Accusing him of misconduct, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick threatened to remove him, but he resigned the same day, according to documents obtained by The Sun.

In a June 19 letter, Grasmick threatened to remove Twombly from office, a procedure that could include a public hearing. It was the first time in memory that a state superintendent forced out a local board member.

Her action was in response to a May 21 letter from school board President Joseph H. Foster that recounted alleged threats to Parham and Maureen Carr York and asked Grasmick to remove Twombly. The other seven members had confronted Twombly in an executive session May 15 before sending the letter.

Twombly has said he quit a year into his second five-year term because of frustration with other board members and with school administrators. He viewed himself as a maverick who sought closer evaluations of teachers and principals, and performance contracts for central office staff.

Twombly would not comment yesterday, but in his May 27 response to Foster's letter, he told Grasmick he remains "extremely shocked and dismayed at the allegations."

"I deny these ugly and astounding accusations," Twombly wrote.

The allegations, which date back to 1994, charge a pattern of behavior that the other seven school board members found intolerable, rude and threatening.

Parham was out of town and unavailable for comment, said school spokeswoman Jane Doyle.

Carr York could not be reached, and Foster declined comment.

The complaints cited in Foster's letter came from women with whom Twombly had had disagreements.

Parham complained to the board shortly after a May 10 telephone conversation with Twombly over talks she had been having with county government officials about government use of school board property in Annapolis.

"He told Dr. Parham, 'I will cut your legs off if I think you or your staff are making deals with John Gary behind the board's back' ," the Foster letter states. Twombly, a Pasadena Democrat, has been at odds with Gary, the Republican county executive who has sharply criticized the board.

During the conversation, Twombly used profanity in reference to Gary, told Parham he was "going to get you," and closed by saying, "This is just a warning to you. Have a nice weekend," Foster wrote.

Parham became physically ill and so fearful of Twombly that she wouldn't go into Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis when, from her car, she saw Twombly enter the building.

The superintendent told board members the incident was the latest in a pattern. In 1994, Twombly pointed out to Parham that school superintendents elsewhere in the country were killed or injured, and "told her after the Oklahoma City bombing that she 'better be careful -- someone might put a bomb in your car,' " according to the letter.

Carr York of Severna Park was about to end her term on the board when she told board members "she has been fearful of Mr. Twombly for over two years," Foster wrote.

She met Twombly at a restaurant where "he told her that he would ruin her and that she would have to move from the community. He threatened her and even insulted her children," and she cried, according to the letter.

Last fall, school board members from other counties told Carr York that Twombly had threatened to "get" the people who he said conspired against his re-appointment to the board, naming Parham and Gary.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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