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Decision No. 16,508

Appeal of DANIEL C. MONOHAN and GRACEOSBORNE from action of the Board of Education of the Mohawk Central School District; James Fleming, Vicki Judd, John Pickett, Lori Sementilli and Jeffrey Sperl, individually and as members of the Board of Education of the Mohawk Central School District; the Board of Education of the Ilion Central School District; Daniel LaLonde, Steve Coupe, Tom Goldin, Bonnie Coffin, Deanna Stubley, Cliff Lane and Jim Vitale, individually and as members of the Board of Education of the Ilion Central School District; Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., as Superintendent of the Ilion Central School District; and Eugene Beirne, as Acting Superintendent of the Mohawk Central School District concerning a resolution regarding centralization.

Decision No. 16,508

(July 25, 2013)

Harris Beach PLLC, attorneys for respondents Board of Education of the Mohawk Central School District, James Fleming, Vicki Judd, John Pickett, Lori Sementilli, Jeffrey Sperl and Eugene Beirne, Douglas Gerhardt, Esq., of counsel

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondents Board of Education of the Ilion Central School District, Daniel LaLonde, Steve Coupe, Tom Goldin, Bonnie Coffin, Deanna Stubley, Cliff Lane, Jim Vitale and Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Benjamin J. Ferrara and Craig M. Atlas, Esqs., of counsel

KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioners challenge the adoption of a joint resolution by the Boards of Education of the Mohawk Central School District (“Mohawk”) and the Ilion Central School District (“Ilion”) (collectively “respondents”) relating to a potential centralization1 of the two school districts. The appeal must be dismissed.

On October 18, 2012, a special meeting of the qualified voters of Ilion, Mohawk and the Herkimer Central School District (“Herkimer”) was held pursuant to Education Law §1803-a to vote upon a proposition to reorganize all three school districts into a single central school district. The record reflects that a majority of voters from respondents’ districts voted in favor of centralization, but that voters in Herkimer voted against it. As a result, the proposed centralization of these three districts did not occur. Pursuant to Education Law §1803-a(6), another vote on the proposed centralization could not be held for at least one year.

Subsequently, respondents noticed and held a special joint board meeting on October 24, 2012 (“October 24 meeting”) to, among other things, discuss issues related to the possible centralization of only their two districts. At this meeting, each board adopted a resolution to seek special legislation to enable Mohawk and Ilion to pursue centralization of the two districts and permit the qualified voters of those districts to vote on such a proposition, irrespective of the time limitations imposed by Education Law §1803-a(6). This appeal ensued.

Petitioners contend that respondents’ October 24 meeting was “specifically about merger” and was invalid. Petitioners appear to argue that the October 24 meeting was a “meeting” within the meaning of Education Law §1803-a(6)and, thus, was prohibited from occurring for at least one year and one day from October 18, 2012. Petitioners, therefore, request that the resolution adopted at the October 24 meeting be annulled, and that all named respondents “be admonished for their illegal actions.”

Respondents deny petitioners’ allegations and argue, among other things, that their actions were legal in all respects, and that petitioners are misconstruing Education Law §1803-a(6). In addition, respondents raise a number of procedural defenses, including that petitioners lack standing to maintain this appeal.

An individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights (Appeal of Waechter, 48Ed Dept Rep 261, Decision No. 15,853; Appeal of Erickson,47 id. 261, Decision No. 15,689). Only persons who are directly affected by the action being appealed have standing to bring an appeal (Appeal of Waechter, 48 Ed Dept Rep 261, Decision No. 15,853; Appeal of Erickson, 47 id. 261, Decision No. 15,689).

1 Petitioners refer to the proposed centralization as a proposed “merger.”

Petitioners contend that they are residents of respondents’ districts, and respondents do not submit any proof to refute this. As such, petitioners are directly affected by any action by respondents that may result in the centralization of their school districts. Consequently, I find that they have standing to maintain this appeal.

Petitioner’s appeal however, must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 Ed Dept Rep 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937; Appeal of Embro, 48 id. 204, Decision No. 15,836).

On December 14, 2012, I issued an order pursuant to Education Law §§305, 314 and Article 37, rescinding the proposed centralization of Ilion, Mohawk and Herkimer. Thereafter, I issued an order, dated January 3, 2013,laying out the proposed centralization of Ilion and Mohawk, which centralization was approved by district voters on February 12, 2013. Consequently, any resolution adopted at respondents’ October 24 meeting to pursue centralization is moot, and petitioners’ request that I annul respondents’ action is academic.

In addition, even if the appeal were not moot, it would be dismissed on the merits. Contrary to petitioners ‘contention, Education Law §1803-a(6) places no limits on aboard of education’s ability to meet as a board and discuss the possibility of centralization. Rather, Education Law§1803-a(6) simply provides that, to the extent that voters defeat a proposition to centralize, “no such elections or meeting shall again be called within one year after such elections.” A “meeting” within the context of Education Law §1803-a(6) is a meeting of the qualified voters of constituent districts to vote upon a proposed centralization of the districts, which is required before two or more central school districts can further centralize (see e.g., Education Law §§1801[4], 1802[1][b], 1803a[2][b]). Education Law §1803-a(6) does not pertain to or prohibit public meetings of a board of education, as petitioners suggest. Accordingly, as respondents’ October24 meeting was simply a public meeting of two boards of education, it was not prohibited by Education Law §1803a(6). Petitioners’ claims, therefore, would be dismissed on the merits as well.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE