Olsen apologizes after release of private text messages

FILE PHOTO: Saugus Union School District Governing Board member Julie Olsen addresses topics facing the district during a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2017.
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After a series of her private text messages were leaked to the public on social media and a WordPress account earlier this month, Saugus Union School District trustee Julie Olsen issued apologies in public and private to those she may have hurt and impacted as a result of her actions, she said Friday.

It is unknown who leaked the messages—dated as far back as December 2016—to the public, or why, but the conversations include disparaging messages and obscenities regarding individuals Olsen knew in the community.

Olsen has since apologized for the messages, both in public at a Nov. 21 SUSD Governing Board meeting and, in private, to friends, saying she “deeply regrets” what she wrote to an unnamed former friend.

“All I can say is I can’t really talk about any details about what’s been released or alleged because I’m talking to an attorney,” she said.

Outside of her statements, Olsen did not share any additional information about the messages and allegations against her, including inappropriate Facebook posts, as she is currently working with legal counsel to discuss the matter, she said.

“As many of you have heard, some of my past private messages with a former friend were released publicly without my consent or validation. Some of these old messages contained ugly words, uttered in frustration prior to and during the 2016 election cycle. In them, I said some things that I deeply regret and I am sorry for,” Olsen said in a statement to the board during a Nov. 21 meeting. “Those who know me well know my true character and my heart and those who don’t, I hope will come to understand that this situation does not define who I am. However, I have learned some painful lessons and have prayed about what’s next. I hope we can now return our focus to what is truly important – our families and the work.”

Olsen also noted how she holds the individuals mentioned in her messages in “the highest regard” and that she apologizes for any negative attention they, her family and the Saugus Union School District received.

“I take my responsibility as a public figure seriously and have learned a hard lesson from this and hope we can return our focus to what is truly important – our families and the work we do together in this wonderful community I hold dear,” Olsen said in a statement to The Signal.

However, following Olsen’s statement at the Nov. 21 meeting, fellow board member Paul De La Cerda asked Board President David Powell to open an investigation into the messages citing the “Code of Conduct” section of the district’s bylaws and policies.

“I do appreciate Ms. Olsen’s comments. Hopefully, this is a lesson learned about this kind of information being shared with the public,” De La Cerda said during his statements at the meeting. “We do have a procedure in place for these issues. The board has let the board president consider conducting or forming a subcommittee, which is termed as the board’s Code of Conduct Subcommittee, that allows us to look at this and make sure that we address this the best way possible moving forward. I’m asking again that we look at this as it is within our policy to do.”

An investigation would include a two-member subcommittee of the board who would meet to review the incident’s evidence or allegations, according to this policy. It would then be up to this subcommittee to determine whether or not a matter is “frivolous” and should be dismissed or if it requires further review in private resolution or open session.

“It is the board’s responsibility to examine the policy, and then to determine if any process is needed at all,” SUSD board member Judy Umeck said regarding the policy.

However, the matter is not scheduled to be discussed during Tuesday’s SUSD Governing Board meeting.

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