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Decision No. 17,795

Appeal of ANTHONY BONELLI, from action of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream 13 Union Free School District regarding a school district election.

Decision No. 17,795

(November 20, 2019)

Guercio & Guercio, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Christopher Shishko, Esq., of counsel

TAHOE., Acting Commissioner.--Petitioner, an unsuccessful candidate in the May 2019 election for trustee on the Board of Education of the Valley Stream 13 Union Free School District (“respondent”), brings this action seeking a recount and recanvassing of the votes cast at the election.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent conducted its annual budget vote and election of trustees on May 21, 2019.  Petitioner was unsuccessful in his bid for trustee against the incumbent candidate by 16 votes.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on June 25, 2019.

Petitioner alleges voting irregularities and seeks a recount of votes cast at polling machines and a recanvass of the vote to be performed by an independent body.  Petitioner additionally requests the appointment of a “special monitor” to oversee the recount and recanvassing and to “conduct a formal investigation into every aspect of the election process.”

Respondent argues that petitioner has failed to join a necessary party; namely, Milagros Vicente, the winner of the election who currently holds the office of school board trustee.  Respondent also maintains that the results of the election are valid.

The petition must be dismissed for failure to join a necessary party.  A party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such (Appeal of Murray, 48 Ed Dept Rep 517, Decision No. 15,934; Appeal of Miller, 48 id. 465, Decision No. 15,917; Appeal of Williams, 48 id. 343, Decision No. 15,879).  Joinder requires that an individual be clearly named as a respondent in the caption and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition to inform the individual that he or she should respond to the petition and enter a defense (Appeal of Murray, 48 Ed Dept Rep 517, Decision No. 15,934; Appeal of Miller, 48 id. 465, Decision No. 15,917; Appeal of Williams, 48 id. 343, Decision No. 15,879).  Section 275.8(d) of the Commissioner’s regulations provides in pertinent part: “If an appeal involves the validity of a school district meeting or election ... a copy of the petition must be served upon the trustee or board of trustees or board of education as the case may be, and upon each person whose right to hold office is disputed and such person must be joined as a respondent” (emphasis added) (see Appeal of Schultz, 48 Ed Dept Rep 70, Decision No. 15,796; Appeal of Duffy, 47 id. 86, Decision No. 15,634).

Petitioner seeks a recount and recanvass, which could adversely affect Ms. Vicente, who was elected to the office of board trustee in the contested election.  Moreover, as indicated above, 8 NYCRR §275.8(d) specifically requires joinder of “each person whose right to hold office is disputed” in an election appeal.  Therefore, Ms. Vicente is a necessary party, and petitioner’s failure to join her requires dismissal of this appeal (Appeal of McDonough, 54 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,752; Appeal of Pasquini, 53 id., Decision No. 16,500).

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

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE