The superintendent of schools in Chicopee, Massachusetts, has been arrested by the FBI, accused of making false statements in an investigation into threatening text messages sent to a candidate for chief of police. On Friday her attorney addressed the charges, saying no evidence has been presented and that his client denies the allegations.
Federal agents showed up at Lynn M. Clark's Belchertown home on Wednesday, taking her into custody and seizing evidence, as well.
According to federal investigators, the 51-year-old Chicopee Public Schools official sent almost 100 messages to someone who applied to be the city’s police chief in an attempt to force the candidate to withdraw their application in November 2021.
Clark allegedly told the person she’d release information that would harm their reputation if they got the job.
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The candidate did withdraw the application, and the city had to delay the selection process.
“There’s factual allegations contained in the complaint and I would say at this point without getting into details that there are a lot of parts of that that are inaccurate from her standpoint," her attorney, Jared Olanoff, told reporters on Friday.
Olanoff said he took issue with the FBI's decision to handcuff and arrest his client, claiming that they had an agreement with the government that they would be informed of a court date and appear in court. He noted that he would not typically address a case before trial, but in this case he was worried about the amount of pretrial publicity the case has received.
"Absolutely nothing has been proven whatsoever. We have not seen any evidence of any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever. All that you have so far is a complaint and the complaint is not evidence. It is merely an allegation, which she denies," Olanoff said.
Clark made an appearance with Olanoff but did not make any comments. She has not responded to NBC10 Boston's previous requests for comment.
Investigators allege Clark sent 99 messages to the person from fictitious phone numbers that she purchased through a mobile app. Phone and internet records revealed that these numbers were allegedly purchased by Clark and that the purchased numbers sent each of the threatening messages.
According to FBI officials, Clark initially denied sending the messages on several occasions to investigators and allegedly cast suspicion on other people, including other city employees, the victim's colleagues, and even a member of her own family.
"There's an allegation that she claimed her son sent the text messages and that is absolutely not true that is not something she said," Olanoff said.
Court documents reveal Clark eventually confessed that she sent the messages, telling the FBI that "she felt if the candidate became police chief, it could negatively impact her position as superintendent.”
When asked if his client admitted to sending those messages Olanoff said they would not comment, instead pointing out that the charges are that she lied to the FBI and do not center on the text messages. He also said that he and his client have not seen the text messages and do not know what they say.
“We have not seen a single shred of evidence," he said.
The Chicopee School Committee met Wednesday night in executive session and voted 8-3 to place Clark on paid leave effective immediately following her arrest.
“It’s placed a huge dark cloud over the city,” David Barsalou said.
"This is disappointing and disheartening,” Vieau added at the meeting.
Committee members are also asking for Clark to submit her resignation, though not everyone agreed with that call.
“I think it’s too soon ask for her resignation because she’s innocent until proven guilty," Doug Girouard said.
“I feel asking for her resignation is warranted because she admitted to lying,” Grace Schofield countered.
“She made a disgrace of the school district and that’s no small deal, we’re the second biggest city west of Worcester, we’re not acting like it,” Timothy Wagner added.
Clark's attorney said the way the board spoke of the allegations was inappropriate and that he took issue with the way it was addressed at the meeting.
“To say she’s been treated fairly so far in the public realm, that has not been the case."
Clark, who has been charged with one count of making false statements, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.