By a split vote Monday morning, the Clarkstown School Board approved Trustee Donna Ehrenberg’s request to have the benefits of Section 3811 of State Education Law for legal defense conferred upon her. Trustee Joe Malgieri, whose wife Cathy Malgieri filed theagainst Ehrenberg, abstained; Trustees Diane Hoeneveld and Robert Carlucci voted no, and Board President Doug Katz and Trustees Phil DeGaetano, Ehrenberg and Kevin Grogan voted yes. Cathy Malgieiri’s lawsuit alleges Ehrenberg violated her role as a school board trustee and had caused substantial changes in her employment.
“I am furious,” said Hoeneveld. “She should have recused herself.”
During the special meeting, Hoeneveld questioned how the board could vote on providing defense for Ehrenberg when the determined the statements concerning trustees’ visits were accurate in a memo signed by Woodglen Principal Lisa Maher. Katz stated that board members were entitled to legal representation under Section 3811. Board Attorney Warren Berbit said the district’s insurance carrier would cover the legal costs and at no cost to the district.
DeGaetano characterized the vote as “window dressing” because the state education commissioner has the final say on how Ehrenberg’s legal costs should be handled.
Several community members came to the 9 a.m. meeting to show their support for Ehrenberg. New City residents Ron Posner and Denise Green said they have known her for years and appreciated the work she had done with Clarkstown’ Special Education Parents Teachers Association (SEPTA).
“I’m definitely in support of Donna,” said Green. “She has done nothing but advocate for children.”
Green said Ehrenberg has been a driving force between SEPTA and an autism program in district and is known for reaching out to parents to help them with questions they have about their special needs children.
“I’m here to support Donna and I probably represent dozens and dozens of people who support Donna,” said Posner, who has known Ehrenberg for about 10 years.
“We don’t think there is any substance to the lawsuit.”