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.
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.
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.
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.”
Clark also allegedly told investigators that the police chief candidate had achieved accomplishments based on her work, and she thought the person needed to be "knocked down a peg.”
Chicopee Mayor John Vieau said in a statement Wednesday that his office is aware of the situation and is working to ensure that school department operations continue smoothly through this transition as "the education of children remains paramount."
“Today’s arrest is disheartening for the City of Chicopee," Vieau said in his statement, adding that the school committee would decide on a proper course of action.
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, 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.
Clark was expected to make an initial court appearance in federal court in Springfield later Wednesday. NBC10 Boston did reach out to her attorney by phone and email Wednesday for a statement, but so far we have not yet heard back.
Nobody answered the door at Clark’s home Wednesday after she was released from custody, and she has not responded to NBC10 Boston's requests for comment.