Decision No. 18,200
Appeal of ANTHONY BONELLI from action of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream 13 Union Free School District regarding a voter proposition.
Appeal of ANTHONY BONELLI from action of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream 13 Union Free School District regarding implementation of a voter proposition.
Decision No. 18,200
(October 4, 2022)
Ingerman Smith, L.L.P., attorneys for respondent, Matthew Guerra, Esq., of counsel
ROSA., Commissioner.--In two separate appeals, petitioner challenges various actions of the Board of Education of the Valley Stream Union Free School District (“respondent” or the “board”) regarding a voter proposition on renovations and additions to the district’s high school. Because the appeals arise out of the same facts and circumstances and present similar issues of fact and law, they are consolidated for decision. The appeals must be dismissed.
In March 2021, respondent approved the text of Proposition 3, which authorized the expenditure of up to $ 2.3 million from the district’s capital reserve fund. Proposition 3 asked voters to approve the following:
Expenditure of no more than $2,300,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund established on May 15, 2018, to finance capital improvement projects including extension and renovation of classroom space as the James A. Dever Elementary School and board room and business office renovation and redesign.
District voters approved Proposition 3 at the May 2021 annual meeting and budget vote. Thereafter, respondent’s superintendent submitted a plan for the renovation to the State Education Department’s Office of Facilities & Planning (SED). This submission included an architectural plan. The first appeal (“Bonelli I”) ensued. Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on March 1, 2022.
The district continued to implement Proposition 3 in spring 2022 by, among other things, obtaining SED approval of a construction project application and advertising for bids. The second appeal (“Bonelli II”) ensued. Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on April 11, 2022.
In Bonelli I, petitioner contends that the language of Proposition 3 is impermissibly vague. He argues that its language did not encompass the specific renovations contained in the architectural plan submitted to SED. Petitioner additionally asserts that the board was required: (1) to submit a “diagram or plan” in connection with Proposition 3; and (2) to take additional action following voter approval of Proposition 3 in May 2021. He seeks an order that the district “produce an accounting of monies thus far spent on unauthorized ‘plan’ projects ….”
Respondent contends that the appeal must be dismissed as untimely and for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. On the merits, respondent argues that petitioner has failed to prove that respondent committed any error, let alone one that affected the outcome of the May 2021 budget vote.
Bonelli I must be dismissed as untimely. An appeal to the Commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the decision or act complained of, unless any delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR 275.16; Appeal of Saxena, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,239; Appeal of Lippolt, 48 id. 457, Decision No. 15,914). Whether cast as a challenge to the board’s resolution or the voters’ approval thereof, petitioners’ claims concern events well beyond the 30-day time limitation (see generally Appeal of Brousseau, 39 Ed Dept Rep 397, Decision No. 14,271). The only timely action identified by petitioner is a February 2022 letter from an assistant superintendent. In this letter, the assistant superintendent refers to a “new music wing” and “relocation of the central offices.” This communication does not resuscitate petitioner’s otherwise untimely challenges to the board’s resolution or the voters’ approval thereof. As such, the appeal must be dismissed.
Even if Bonelli I was timely, it would be dismissed on the merits. In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of P.C. and K.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,337; Appeal of Aversa, 48 id. 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884). Prior decisions of the Commissioner concerning resolutions and propositions have not demanded the exacting level of detail desired by petitioner (see Appeal of Sheppard, 40 Ed Dept Rep 666, Decision No. 14,579; Appeal of Brousseau, 39 id. 397, Decision No. 14,271; Appeal of Beilman, 38 id. 644, Decision No. 14,109). Moreover, prior to the vote, respondent offered additional details on the contemplated work in a presentation delivered at respondent’s May 2021 board meeting and in a 2021-2022 proposed school budget newsletter.
Petitioner contends that respondent’s timeframe for awarding bids was unreasonably short. Petitioner further asserts that “the bid advertisement [and] the schedule of bid activities” should have been subject to board approval. Petitioner additionally argues that respondent impermissibly continued to implement Proposition 3 during the pendency of Bonelli I. Petitioner requests “the termination of all efforts to obtain bid proposals associated with the construction project.”
Respondent contends that petitioner has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. On the merits, respondent argues that petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Bonelli II must be dismissed. I agree with respondent that “[p]etitioner has not presented evidence to show any wrongdoing on the part of the … [d]istrict, nor has he shown any reason why the capital improvement project should not be allowed to proceed.” Petitioner’s personal opposition to the district’s implementation of Proposition 3 does not provide a basis for relief.
For the benefit of the parties, petitioner’s concerns relate to the day-to-day implementation of Proposition 3. That, however, is up to the superintendent and district staff. As counsel for respondent indicates, if petitioner is dissatisfied with this implementation process, he may seek to “address  [these] concerns at a meeting of the Board of Education ….”
To the extent they are not specifically addressed herein, petitioner’s remaining contentions are without merit.
THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.
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