Shirley Board of selectmen Chairman Kendra Dumont released the following letter prepared for the board by Town Counsel, explaining the circumstances and ultimate resolution of the Robert Schuler matter.
"The Board of Selectmen has requested that Town Counsel issue the following statement on their behalf in response to questions regarding the circumstances relating to the recent settlement of a pending lawsuit brought by Robert Schuler.
"On May 9, 2011, in response to information provided to the Selectmen concerning comments Robert Schuler made about the budget process which were perceived to be threatening, the Selectmen issued a notice of trespass barring Mr. Schuler from Town buildings and property. Schuler is alleged to have stated that he was frustrated with the budget process and that he wanted to take out his gun and "start shooting". The Selectmen, as part of their duties, are responsible for the care, custody and control of all Town property under their jurisdiction. Concurrently, Police Chief Greg Massak revoked Mr. Schuler's firearms identification card which had permitted him to possess guns. These actions were taken against the background of recent shootings at governmental events and facilities including the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords which resulted in six deaths and thirteen wounded. The Selectmen felt compelled to take appropriate action to insure the safety of Shirley residents and employees in response to Schuler's comments.
"The notice of trespass was conditioned to remain in place until such time as Schuler completed anger management training or obtained a letter from a qualified physician or other qualified mental health professional declaring him not to be a threat to public safety. This is the same standard required under Mass. Gen. Laws c. 140 for anyone who has had a license to carry or possess firearms revoked. While Schuler offered an apology for his comments, he was not willing to secure the medical opinion required by the Selectmen. It is important to point out that Schuler never appealed the revocation of his firearms identification card.
"During the period between 2011-2013, attempts were made by this office, working with the Selectmen, Schuler and his counsel, to resolve the matter and allow Schuler to resume his normal duties and participate as a member of the Finance Committee and the Sewer Commission. In 2013, the ACLU initiated a lawsuit against the Town of Shirley, the Selectmen and the Town Administrator on behalf of Schuler alleging a violation of civil rights. The Selectmen maintained their position that the notice of trespass was a valid exercise of their authority and, given the nature of Schuler's comments, did not infringe upon his constitutional rights.
"In consideration of the fact that the original trespass order had resulted in more than two years of peaceful participation by Schuler in his volunteer duties, the Selectmen upon the recommendation of this office and insurance defense counsel, agreed to rescind the notice of trespass on June 24, 2013. At the same time, the civil action was dismissed with a general mutual release and settlement agreement which involved the payment of $35,000 in legal fees to the ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts. Other than the deductible amount, which was paid by the Town, the balance of the settlement agreement was paid by the Town's insurance carrier.
"The Selectmen are thankful that this matter was brought to a successful resolution without further incident and they look forward to continuing to address the important business of the Town of Shirley in a productive and civil manner, for the benefit of all the citizens of Shirley."
Gary S. Brackett
Brackett & Lucas
Counselors At Law
19 Cedar Street
Worcester, MA 01609