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Schuylkill County News

Pottsville Area Turns Over Bills but No Text Messages from Zwiebel’s Business iPhone

zwiebels phone bills

zwiebels phone bills

Pottsville Area School District recently handed over months of mobile phone bills for its estranged Superintendent Jeffrey Zwiebel.

The district did this responding to yet another Right to Know request from former school board member Scott Thomas, who runs a watchdog Facebook group and website aimed at keeping an eye on district business.

Thomas filed a Right to Know request seeking these bills on Aug. 10, the same day Pottsville Area was ordered by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records to hand over all business text messages on Zwiebel’s district-issued iPhone, the result of a RTK request originally filed back in April.

Pottsville Area School District Responds to RTK – Hands Over Zwiebel Phone Bills

The bills from Zwiebel’s district-owned account show the school Superintendent, who in July was placed on extended medical leave through the end of his contract in 2021, had the following activity on his phone since late-April through late-July:

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  • 276 text messages
  • 71 sent videos, photos or images
  • 278 received videos, photos or images

OOR says Pottsville must turn over messages sent and received between May 10 and June 4, so all the messages in the counts above don’t need to be handed over to Thomas. The District was ordered by OOR to turn over those messages as a result of a successful RTK request originally filed back in April, which the district fought but eventually lost last week.

Thomas believes that since Pottsville Area does not have a copy of these messages and can’t access them, Zwiebel must have deleted them. What he wonders is, did the Superintendent delete all these messages, and hundreds sent and received prior to these dates, when he was first informed of the Right to Know request?

“If the Records truly did not exist at the time of my request, Dr. Zwiebel should sign an affidavit saying so,” Thomas tells The Canary. “But his phone bills show a different story. Something doesn’t add up. The district only examined the phone on August 10 and this was after the state granted my appeal. This does not suffice, in my opinion.”

On Aug. 10, Thomas said he received an affidavit signed by Dianne Doughterty, Pottsville Area’s Director of Technology, indicating she examined Zwiebel’s district-issued iPhone and that it had no messages on it.

Thomas says he wants Zwiebel to sign an affidavit admitting that he did not purposely delete his phone messages when the school received his initial Right to Know request back in April.

Right to Know Request Timeline

Since there are two different Right to Know requests mentioned in this article, we wanted to chalk out a timeline to help you keep them straight.

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Thomas filed an initial RTK back on April 21 seeking Zwiebel’s messages on the iPhone Pottsville Area issued him dating back to Jan. 1, 2020. He amended that RTK the next day with a demand attached saying Zwiebel was not to delete or alter messages on that phone.

On May 1, the school district asked for a 30-day extension to reply to that initial RTK. Then, on May 28, Thomas says he received notice that Pottsville Area would not respond to that RTK because of an apparent mistake he made filling out the district’s RTK form. Thomas says he then resubmitted that RTK using the district’s form.

Two weeks later, on June 12, Pottsville Area denied Thomas’ RTK by saying the text messages he wanted didn’t exist. Thomas appealed the district’s decision on June 13 with OOR.

Earlier this week, on Aug. 10, OOR granted Thomas’ appeal and ordered Pottsville Area to turn over the text messages the district says do not exist. That same day, Thomas filed a second RTK with the district seeking the phone bills from Zwiebel’s district-issued iPhone to get the message counts to show that messages were, indeed, sent and received on that phone.

Although Pottsville did turn over those bills, it still must find a way to turn over those text messages sought by the original RTK originally filed in April.

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  1. Just sayin

    August 15, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Caught, red handed!

  2. Doug Broughton

    August 16, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Get the damn phone! Let the tech gurus get each and every one of those text messages, videos, photos, etc…They can access those items–they are not deleted, just in different location…This is only Part 1 of this nonsense…Part 2, is to find the missing millions of dollars and that leads me to believe this poor excuse of a Superintendent had some involvement with this…Time to bring back the former Business Manager who lives in a very expensive beach house in New Jersey and see what he might know about the missing money! Just expressing my God-given right of freedom of speech.

    • Tweener

      August 19, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Agreed.They should publish the names of the former board members who spent that money and the business managers who wrote the checks.This happened under different board members.Check all their phone records!

  3. Tweener

    August 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Canary reporters.Check the records of the board minutes to find out who made the motion to spend monies.Like who made the motion to hire the special ed consultant,etc.

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