Decision No. 14,244
Appeal of JOSEPH L. RAZZANO, JR. and PHYLLIS M. RAZZANO from action of the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District regarding the conduct of a school district election.
Appeal of PHYLLIS M. RAZZANO from action of the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District regarding the conduct of a school district election.
Decision No. 14,244
(November 2, 1999)
Kevin G. O'Haire, Esq., attorney for respondent
MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the actions of the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District ("respondent") with respect to an election held on May 18, 1999 to fill a vacancy on respondent board. Because both appeals relate to the same school district election, they are consolidated for decision.
On April 14, 1999, petitioner Joseph Razzano requested a nominating petition from respondent's business office to nominate a candidate for the board of education at the school district election to be held on May 18, 1999. Staff in the business office requested that petitioner fill in the top portion of the petition with the name and address of the proposed candidate. However, petitioner was obtaining the nominating petition for his wife and did not know who she intended to nominate. Petitioner refused to fill in the candidate information and, consequently, was not provided with a nominating petition. The deadline for filing nominating petitions was April 16, 1999. As of that date, no candidate had submitted a nominating petition.
On April 27, 1999, petitioner Phyllis Razzano attempted to submit a petition indicating her own nomination as candidate for the board of education, with the required number of voter signatures. At that time, school officials acknowledged that they had erred in previously refusing to provide petitioner Joseph Razzano with a blank nominating petition. However, the business officer refused to accept Phyllis Razzano's petition because the filing deadline had already passed. Petitioners initiated this appeal requesting that I issue an interim order to stay the election of May 18 and directing respondent to add Phyllis Razzano's name to the ballot. On May 13, 1999, I denied the request for an interim order.
Petitioners waged a write-in campaign along with another individual, Evan Stritsman. As a result of the May 18, 1999 election, petitioner Phyllis Razzano received 218 write-in votes and Evan Stritsman received 239 write-in votes. Respondent declared Mr. Stritsman the winning candidate.
In their first appeal, petitioners challenge respondent's refusal to provide blank nominating petitions to individuals who request them. As the sole relief sought, petitioners demand issuance of the interim order described above and an order reprimanding respondent for refusing to provide blank nominating petitions. As noted, petitioners' request for interim relief was denied on May 13, 1999.
With respect to petitioners' remaining request, respondent acknowledged in its answering papers that it erred in refusing to provide blank nominating petitions, and that it will provide them in future elections. The Commissioner of Education will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision upon facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Davis, 38 Ed Dept Rep 805, Decision No. 14,148; Appeal of Angelo, 38 id. 803, Decision No. 14,147). Because petitioners' request for interim relief was disposed of previously and a controversy regarding the availability of blank nominating petitions no longer exists, no further meaningful relief can be granted.
Subsequent to the May 18, 1999 election, petitioner Phyllis Razzano initiated an appeal alleging that a number of improprieties occurred in connection with that election. However, in her demand for relief, petitioner states that she does not seek invalidation of the results of the election. To the extent she seeks review of respondent's procedures respecting the conduct of the election but does not request an order setting aside the election results, petitioner, in essence, seeks an advisory opinion. The Commissioner of Education does not issue advisory opinions in appeals brought pursuant to Education Law "310 (Appeal of Federico, 38 Ed Dept Rep 351, Decision No. 14,052; Appeal of Lambert, 37 id. 599, Decision No. 13,937). Consequently, I will not address petitioner Razzano's claims regarding the conduct of the May 18, 1999 election.
As part of her appeal, petitioner Razzano seeks an order permitting her to inspect the absentee ballot envelopes, voting machine tallies, the election tally sheets and "all other documents pertaining to the vote held on May 18, 1999." Petitioner Razzano indicates that she requested release of the district's voter sign-in books pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") (Public Officers Law, Article 6). After respondent initially denied her request, petitioner Razzano sought an opinion from the Department of State Committee on Open Government, which supported release of that information. Thereafter, respondent permitted her to inspect and copy the voter sign-in books. Petitioner Razzano also requested access under the Freedom of Information Law to inspect the official vote tally sheet completed by the district clerk at the election, the paper rolls indicating the total votes on each of the two voting machines used at the election and the absentee ballot envelopes pertaining to the vote held on May 18, 1999. Respondent denied petitioner's requests. Petitioner Razzano indicates that she requested and received an opinion from the Committee on Open Government regarding her request for the official vote tally sheet stating that the tally sheet is accessible pursuant to FOIL. Pursuant to Public Officers Law "89, the appropriate forum for review of the denial of requests for records made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law is the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Accordingly, I will not consider petitioner Razzano's claims regarding respondent's denial of her requests for records.
THE APPEALS ARE DISMISSED.
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