A key figure in Lower Merion School District's "Webcamgate" scandal is refusing to give a deposition for the federal lawsuit that accuses the district of spying on students with cameras embedded in school-issued laptops.
Carol Cafiero, the Main Line district's information-systems coordinator, is attempting to quash a subpoena ordering her to testify, as lawyers for a Harriton High sophomore who is suing the district try to determine the scope of the laptop surveillance.
Cafiero was one of only two school-district employees authorized to remotely activate the webcams - a practice that was first revealed to the public last month through student Blake Robbins' lawsuit.
Robbins, 15, claims that he was reprimanded for activity captured inside his Penn Valley home by the Apple MacBook that the district supplies to its 2,300 high school students. The lawsuit sparked an investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office and the FBI.
Cafiero, who has been placed on paid leave from her six-figure job, could shed additional light on how the cameras were used. But her attorney, Charles Mandracchia, filed a motion yesterday to block her deposition, saying that it was "premature" and "unnecessary."
Mandracchia said that his client does not have access to pertinent documents. He expressed concern that Robbins' attorney, Mark Haltzman, would "ambush her" in a deposition.
"We didn't say we wouldn't produce her," Mandracchia said. "We're just saying we're not going to produce her now."
Haltzman questioned whether Cafiero has something to hide.
"This is a woman who's being paid by the taxpayers of Lower Merion to sit at home and not work because of her involvement with this spying software," Haltzman said last night. "She, of all people, should be fully cooperating."
Cafiero has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Mandracchia said that she activated the webcams only when high-school officials asked her to turn them on to locate stolen or missing laptops.
"She's done nothing wrong or inappropriate," he said.
The other school-district employee on paid leave, network technician Mike Perbix, has agreed to a deposition, Haltzman said. So has Lindy Matsko, the Harriton High assistant vice principal who allegedly approached Robbins about the pictures that were snapped by his webcam.
"If you have nothing to hide, you come forward and tell the truth," Haltzman.
Also yesterday, a group of Lower Merion parents and high-powered lawyers filed a motion in federal court to intervene in the lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the case from being certified as a class action.
The parents and attorneys, affiliated with LMSDParents.org, say that a class-action suit could cost the district millions of dollars, some of which would be passed on to taxpayers.
"We don't want to have to pay ourselves," said attorney Larry Silver, whose daughter attends Harriton High.