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Clarkstown School Board Votes To Release Second Investigative Report And Discuss At May 2nd Meeting

Report recommends changes in policies and procedures regarding complaints

 

The four members of the Clarkstown Board of Education at Tuesday morning’s meeting voted to publicly release the . The report prepared by Feerick Lynch MacCartney PLLC of South Nyack makes recommendations for changes to policies and procedures for the handling of complaints, identifying possible violations of laws and potential remedies for addressing violations.  The document is attached to this article and is posted on the district’s web site. District parents were notified by email.

The board members also voted in favor of Phil DeGaetano’s request to publicly discuss the 13-page document and four-page exhibit at the Wednesday, May 2 meeting.  The board retained the law firm to address the handling of complains following its initial investigative report into the release of a confidential school district memo that had been widely distributed late last year.

The report makes recommendations for policies and procedures for internal investigations of general misconduct and violation of policies and procedures by employees, administrators and/or board members.  The report notes that the board would be instituting guidelines that are not required.  

In this regard, it is worth pointing out that, since the New York State Education Law and related regulations do not mandate the terms and policies and procedures governing such internal investigations, the Board would be imposing policies and procedures that are not requirements of laws upon itself. The Board would be holding the District to standards above and beyond that required by law. 

The recommendation is to establish an eight-step process. This includes filing a complaint within one year of the incident and submitting it to the district’s Title IX Officer. The investigating official would be able to recommend interim relief if it is believed “irreparable harm” could occur before the conclusion of the investigation.

The fourth provision would allow the filing of anonymous complaints. Privacy of all connected with the complaint should be maintained. The sixth provision states the rights of the accused should be protected and there should be an addition to the district’s current policy for discipline about an individual who makes a false accusation.

Investigations should be promptly conducted and the results of investigations should be recorded. If a complaint is substantiated action should be taken by the appropriate authority.

The report provided a review of possible legal violations by the circumstances surrounding the released document. It includes Public Officers Law; Penal Law; General Municipal Law; Education Law; Election Law; Board of Education Law Policies and Procedures, and the Commissioner’s Rules. 

It notes the destroying the notes of the conversation between Assistant Superintendent Deb Leh and Woodglen Elementary School Principal Lisa Maher “raises at least a possible violation of the Public Officers Law §89 (8) by Members of the Administration but only if the requisite intent is found.” 

Regarding Penal Law, the report states that is not within the jurisdiction of civil authorities. It states that possible violations regarding official misconduct may have occurred. Under the evaluation of General Municipal Law, the report notes:

Evidence was developed in the Investigation that the Members of the current Administration undertook activities which could possible violate the foregoing provisions of the New York State Election Law, but only if the requisite intent is shown.” 

The issue of requisite intent was also raised in the attorney’s discussion possible by Board of Education policies and bylaw violations by the communications that Board Members Phil DeGaetano and Donna Ehrenberg had with Maher.  It determines:

Thus there does not appear to a violation of that Bylaw provision under a fair reading of the applicable provisions.

Finally the report suggests that the memo and Dr. Leh’s notes should have been maintained on file for six years according to Records Retention and Disposition Polices.

In its conclusion the report states injunctive relief would not be economical or efficient and that it is up to the board if it wants to follow up with law enforcement on any Penal Law violation.

The proposed policy, its purpose and explanation of terms used is included in Exhibit A.

Jonathan Swift April 24, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Well, just like I thought! New Blood Needed: 2:04 pm on Monday, April 23, 2012 My guess is that the second report, like the first, can be used positively for the 2 board members implicated. They already have the report, it was listed on last week's meeting agenda. Why didn't they simply release the results then? Because, in my opinion, they want a dramatic article to appear right here on the Patch. They don't want the results simply buried in a larger piece on a regular board meeting. They they will then use to their advantage as they seek re-election. If this does happen I hope people see through this. Only time will tell.
Overtaxed April 24, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I hope the good people of this community do not let these outside events cloud what is going on here. A vote for the incumbents is a vote against our children!
Joanie Taylor April 24, 2012 at 08:50 PM
No surprise, majority board is innocent again, Keller-Cogan and admin, guilty. Dear community, Please, wake up! Do not vote the incumbents back in to office in May, or anyone associated with them! Please!
concerned tax payer April 24, 2012 at 08:52 PM
It is important that we elect individuals to the board that are knowledgable of educational law and policy. Please follow Leo Macias and his candidacy for the board. He has the unique skills and resume to guide the board in the future. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leo-Macias/146693242112553
Sigmund Freud April 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM
We can change this nonsense! Vote Wendy Adolff May 15th! http://wendyadolff.weebly.com/
Rhea Vogel April 25, 2012 at 03:59 AM
The first report, un-redacted, is released. It is a multipage compilation of testimony that completely excludes testimony from Donna Ehrenberg. Cost $15,000. Then the board seals from itself all transcripts relating to the investigation it has commissioned and instructs the investigators to continue for an additional expenditure of $15,000. Subsequently, it releases, unredacted, the second part of this investigation. So, the board hired the investigative firm, directed the investigation and paid over $30 thousand for the investigation. Considering this, what could the outcome be if not favorable to the board members involved and unfavorable for everyone else? It is time to close this ugly chapter in the the story of Clarkstown. Let us not make the mistake of re-electing Ehrenberg and DeGaetano. We have the opportunity to elect three new people. Let's do it!
Phil Leiter April 25, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Feerick Lynch MacCartney PLLC are certainly good attorneys. They offer good suggestions for District policies (except the anonymous complaints thing). They also did a great job defending their clients, the Board majority, or more succinctly Mr. D. and Mrs. E, from the actual question. The review of possible legal violations was based upon their fatally flawed report, so the questions raised are no surprise. Once again, this report assumes malicious intent by Dr. K-C and complete neutrality by the Board members most responsible for her departure. Dr. Leh’s memo was a transcription of her notes; the notes did not transcribe the conversation with Mrs. Maher. Dr. K-C’s order on Board visits applied to all Board members. The documents were retained as they were created – electronically. And how did the Grogan emails find their way into this?? Here’s the simple, unanswered question: What was Donna Ehrenberg’s intent in asking a tenure candidate about a particular teacher while visiting a school as a Board member? This is not casual conversation…even if one assumes complete neutrality. The official answer is: who knows? Really? The Board majority spent $30K to waste our time.

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