Former Haverhill School Committeewoman Kerry Fitzgerald and Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello.
Editor’s note: The staff and management of WHAV wrestled with the dilemma of airing this story only a day before Tuesday’s election or waiting until later in the week. Issues thoroughly considered were the public’s right-to-know before voting and the competitive media environment.
Former Haverhill School Committeewoman Kerry Fitzgerald says a Facebook page, ostensibly sponsored by Haverhill Public Schools, is actually a political tool, and illegal.
Fitzgerald, who served as a school committee member from 2002 to 2010, filed a complaint Sunday with Mayor James J. Fiorentini, school Superintendent James F. Scully and some school committee members. She charged the “Haverhill Public Schools ~ Parent Group” page is really a cover to advance the political interests of in-laws Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello and Shaun P. Toohey. Fitzgerald said public comments viewed not favorable to the in-laws are stricken. Ryan-Ciardiello is listed as the administrator of the Facebook page.
“For those of you who haven’t seen my posts, you only need to know that many of us believe there is a blatantly political scheme being conducted by what inaccurately appears to be the Haverhill Public Schools,” Fitzgerald wrote. She added, “This is not only illegal, it is an example of the worst kind of politics.”
Ryan-Ciardiello and Toohey are both members of the Haverhill School Committee. Toohey is also the Republican candidate for the First Essex Senate seat and Ryan-Ciardiello is the Republican candidate for Fifth District governor’s councilor. Toohey is also a member of the Facebook group, but is not accused of removing posts.
Attempts to reach Ryan-Ciardiello were not successful by deadline.
Fitzgerald said she became aware of problems Friday when a post she wrote was removed from the group. Her message criticized alleged erroneous reporting by an Eagle-Tribune staff writer that favored Toohey over incumbent Senator Kathleen O’Connor-Ives.
“I attended two of the three debates this political season. Senator Katie Ives NEVER said she did not support charter schools. She said the funding method has to be changed,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald: Other Facebook Pages Also Politically Motivated
Two other previous Facebook sites seem to have been politically engineered, Fitzgerald said, after polling other members.
She said Ryan-Ciardiello’s sister Tatum Ryan Toohey created a “HPS SOS” group when Gene V. Zylkuski sought to unseat either Toohey, Susan Danehy or Scott Wood for school committee in 2011.
“They posted lies about Gene Z and when anyone objected, they deleted the post,” Fitzgerald said.
“When Hunking had their website, the Ryans started a HPS Hunking page and used it to promote Maura for school committee.. When questions were asked about whether the site was for Hunking or for Maura, postings were deleted then threads deleted and ultimately the page was deleted,” Fitzgerald charged.
In Fitzgerald’s letter to city officials, she concluded, “I am no longer a public figure. I care about ethics and I care about fairness and I care about our city. This is just so very wrong. It hurts our community, our children and our school. It is the most vile and disgusting sort of self-serving politics. I will be taking this on as my own personal cause as far as I can take it.”