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Chicopee school superintendent arrested on federal charge of lying about alleged threatening text message plot

Chicopee Public Schools Superintendent Lynn ClarkDon Treeger/The Republican/file

In November, a Chicopee police officer vying to become chief received a flurry of anonymous text messages, threatening to damage his reputation if he didn’t withdraw his application, court records show. Some messages, he would later tell FBI agents, included private material that he had shared with only one person: the superintendent of the city’s schools.

On Wednesday, Chicopee schools Superintendent Lynn A. Clark was arrested and charged with lying to FBI agents when she allegedly denied sending the texts and pretended that she had received similar warnings from unknown numbers, according to an FBI affidavit filed in court.

One message she claimed to receive included a picture of the officer and his wife at a wedding that he kept locked in his office, the officer told investigators.

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Though the affidavit refers to the candidate who received the text messages as Individual 1, a source familiar with the investigation said it was a Chicopee police officer. Investigators did not say how Clark and the officer know each other.

In an interview with investigators, Clark, 51, initially said she received the wedding picture, as well as a picture of the officer driving her car through a tollbooth, from an unknown sender. But investigators determined she was the source of 99 threatening text messages to the officer, his wife, and herself, using a “burner app” to conceal her identity.

Initially, Clark attempted to cast suspicion on other city employees and a member of her family, according to the affidavit, but later admitted to the bizarre, elaborate scheme, telling investigators that the officer “had achieved many accomplishments based on [her] work” and she wanted to see him “knocked down a peg.”

Clark, who was arrested at her home in Belchertown, appeared in US District Court in Springfield on Wednesday and was released on bail, with a warning to stay away from the victim. Neither Clark nor her lawyer responded to requests for comment.

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Chicopee Mayor John L. Vieau reported the threatening texts to the FBI in early December and said he was concerned they unfairly affected the integrity of the selection process for chief by forcing one candidate to withdraw his application, according to the affidavit.

The officer told investigators that he believed Clark was also receiving threatening messages because she forwarded them to him, including one that instructed her to pressure him to “bow out” of his bid for the chief’s job.

In a statement, Vieau described Clark’s arrest as “disheartening.” Clark has been superintendent since February 2020.

“This morning, Superintendent of Schools Lynn Clark was charged and arrested for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Vieau said in the statement. “The mayor’s office is aware of the situation and we are working to ensure that School Department operations continue smoothly through this transition as the education of children remains paramount.”

The School Committee voted 8-3 Wednesday night to put Clark on paid administrative leave, and to ask her to resign, according to a video of the meeting posted online. Assistant Superintendent Alvin Morton will serve as acting superintendent until the legal matter is resolved, the newspaper reported on its website.

The Globe could not reach school officials for comment after the meeting.

School Committee member Donald Lamothe said that Clark’s arrest “surprised the heck out of me” and that he was waiting to learn more about the allegations before commenting.

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“She was doing a great job,” Lamothe said, noting that Clark was highly recommended for the superintendent’s job after serving as the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment and as principal at several schools. “Every school she went to, the MCAS scores went up. So it was a natural fit for her to take the [superintendent] job.”

Clark grew up in Chicopee and earned her bachelor’s degree from Westfield State University, according to an article in the Republican of Springfield.

After working as a substitute teacher, she was hired full time to work as an English as a Second Language teacher, the newspaper reported. In 2001, she was hired as principal of Anna Barry School, where she spent seven years.

In December, the city delayed its search for a new police chief after the officer withdrew his candidacy. Neither the interim police chief, Jeffrey Gawron, or two former candidates for the chief position could be reached for comment.

The FBI said that in January, Clark told investigators she feared the investigation was harming her professional reputation and “tearing the city apart.” That month, she e-mailed an FBI agent who was working on the case.

“No matter which person, group of people, or individual this [investigation] points to, it was not reported by us and a piece of this was probably self-serving,” she wrote. “I just feel that nothing and I repeat, nothing — will help me personally. How is this helping the City?”

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In a follow-up interview, she told agents she didn’t know who sent the messages and suggested a city employee or one of her own relatives could be responsible.

But when confronted by electronic data, she admitted to sending the messages, the affidavit stated.

Clark was linked to the threatening texts when records from the administrator of the burner app, cell service providers, and other sources revealed the messages were sent on numbers Clark had purchased, using an Apple device that used her home IP address, the affidavit stated.

Clark told investigators she had found the wedding picture on the Internet and took a picture of it with her cell phone,” the filing said. She then sent a text message with the picture to her cellphone through the burner app and showed it to the officer, saying she did not know who had sent it to her.

Clark also told investigators she had used burner apps as superintendent “to contact parents of students when they were unresponsive to calls made from a number associated with the public schools,” the affidavit said.


Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.