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P-H-M board calls for Matt Chaffee to resign following allegations of prostitution, alcohol abuse

People wait outside the Penn-Harris-Madison administration building before a school board meeting regarding trustee Matt Chaffee on May 14, 2024.
Marek Mazurek/WVPE
People wait outside the Penn-Harris-Madison administration building before a school board meeting regarding trustee Matt Chaffee on May 14, 2024.

There was hardly any discussion by members of the Penn-Harris-Madison school board on Tuesday before they voted to call on one of their own to resign.

The precision with which the meeting was conducted stood in contrast to the licentiousness of the allegations leveled against board member Matt Chaffee.

Those allegations were posted to a right wing blog last month and say Chaffee has paid prostitutes for sex on multiple occasions and has a drinking problem.

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday in calling on Chaffee to resign, though the resolution is nonbinding.

Chaffee himself was not in attendance Tuesday and messages left for both Chaffee and his lawyer were not answered. Board members also said that Chaffee’s lawyer declined to answer questions from the board about the allegations.

School board president Chris Riley said the board wanted to send a message and publicly disavow criminal sexual misconduct which Chaffee is accused of. Riley added Chaffee’s refusal to answer questions forced the board’s hand.

“We have people in our school district who are obviously concerned given the grievous nature of the allegations about having a school board member who has allegedly committed this conduct,” Riley said. “It was very important for the school board to make a public statement that this conduct is not acceptable.”

Despite the unanimous vote, the majority of P-H-M’s school board has no legal power to actually remove Chaffee from the board should he not resign.

The board’s attorney Jeff Johnson explained Indiana law allows school board members to be removed only if they are convicted of a felony or if they show up to school events while intoxicated. Outside of unbecoming conduct, school board trustees can be removed if they move outside the district or if they don't show up to meetings over a long period of time. It's unclear if any law enforcement agency is currently investigating the allegations surrounding Chaffee.

“It’s up to Mr. Chaffee,” Riley said when asked what comes next. “The board unanimously voted tonight to call for his resignation and we’re hoping he follows that and does resign because it is in the best interests of the school district.”

Chaffee was first elected to P-H-M’s board in 2022 thanks to support from conservative parent groups upset over the district’s COVID-masking policy and other culture war issues. Since assuming his seat, Chaffee has largely been critical of Riley and the board’s majority, in fact calling for Riley's resignation earlier this year.

Jim Garrett, a board member who typically votes with Chaffee, also didn’t show up to Tuesday’s meeting.

There were, however, a few members of the public, including Brent Curtis, who spoke up against what they claimed was an abuse of power from the board.

“The outward appearance is that you want to silence a board member who is not afraid to speak out against you. To do so when he is not here to defend himself shows a lack of courage, a lack of class and a lack of human decency,” Curtis said.

Riley responded to those sentiments saying Chaffee would have been allowed to speak had he shown up.

“The board certainly has disagreements between school board members and that’s OK,” Riley said. “But we would not be here if there were no allegations of criminal sexual misconduct.”

P-H-M’s next school board meeting is set for next Monday.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.