Closings & Delays across the Tennessee Valley

Attorneys deny WHNT public records request about Huntsville school board member’s arrest

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — WHNT News 19 continues to investigate the arrest of Huntsville City Schools board member Michelle Watkins.

According to a Huntsville Police Department spokesman, Watkins was arrested and released without bond on New Year’s Eve on a harassment charge. It was related to an incident during a forum at Jemison High School on October 3.

Watkins responded to WHNT News 19 about her arrest that evening, saying in a statement, “I am not only innocent but with assurance that in 2019, I will continue to be unbought, unbossed and never bullied.”

Saturday, attorneys representing Huntsville City Schools declined WHNT News 19’s request for surveillance footage from the forum for the time being.

Attorneys said they will not release the surveillance video WHNT News 19 requested at this time because of an ongoing legal proceeding, writing in part:

“Regarding your request, there are still pending criminal proceedings related to the events in question. Disclosure of the information requested is likely to affect the individual’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to a name-clearing or similar proceeding. Thus, the information you requested falls within an exception to the Open Records Act and is not currently subject to disclosure. Consistent with Alabama law, once the criminal proceedings have been resolved, the applicable exception will no longer apply. We will be able to reconsider your request at that time.”

Attorneys added that it has no other images or records of the incident for release.

Watkins was elected to serve on Huntsville’s school board two years ago, and in November was elected by her peers to serve as the board’s vice president. In her time on the board, she’s been an outspoken critic of the district’s finances and past business deals.

In a statement to WHNT, Watkins says she has been falsely accused. You can read her full statement by clicking this link.