WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - The former head of the Melha Shriners in Springfield is facing several child pornography charges.
Gardner Whitney was the 2011 Potentate or head of the local chapter of the Shriners in the Springfield Area. According to tax records, Whitney was also an Executive Board member in 2008 and 2009. Al Zippen, past Potentate and current Public Relations chairman for the Melha Shriner's told 22News it is an awful situation and the Shriner's are more concerned about the well-being of Whitney's family than they are of the impact it could have on the Shriner's. The Shriner's are holding a meeting Thursday night to discuss the impact moving forward.
Whitney is also an employee at Suffield Middle School, according to the Hampden County District Attorney's office. Suffield Public Schools Superintendent Karen Baldwin has yet to to call 22News back after receiving multiple messages over the course of two days. It is unclear what position Whitney held at that school and if he had any unsupervised contact with children.
First Assistant Hampden County District Attorney Jennifer Fitzgerald told 22News that 61 year-old Gardner Whitney was arraigned Wednesday morning in Westfield District Court.
Whitney was charged with:
- Indecent Assault and Battery (1 count)
- Possession of Child Pornography (4 counts)
- Posing a Child in the Nude (3 counts)
- Secretly Recording a Nude Person (3 counts)
Fitzgerald said there is more than one young victim, and the DA's " Special Victims Unit" will prosecute the case.
Whitney was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail.