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.