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Decision No. 12,845

Appeal of BERNARD M. MITZNER from action of the Board of Education of the Goshen Central School District and Joseph Colistra, Superintendent of Schools, relating to actions of the Superintendent.

Decision No. 12,845

(December 1, 1992)

Shaw and Silveira, Esq., attorneys for respondent, Garrett L. Silveira, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner, a resident of the Goshen Central School District, challenges actions taken by the superintendent while petitioner was examining school district records obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request. The appeal is dismissed.

On August 20, 1992, respondent Colistra approached the table where petitioner was reviewing documents obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request. Charging that the superintendent's actions constituted harassment and intimidation, petitioner sought review by respondent board of education. On September 2, 1992, respondent board advised petitioner that the superintendent did not intend to intimidate him but merely stopped at the table where petitioner sat to check the district's procedures for ensuring record security. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner claims that in stopping at the table, respondent Colistra actually read petitioner's notes which, he alleges, constitute an invasion of privacy, harassment, intimidation and a violation of his rights under the Freedom of Information Law. Petitioner seeks an order for respondent Colistra's "rehabilitation."

Respondent Colistra asserts that he was not reviewing petitioner's notes. Additionally, respondents urge that the petition be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Further, they seek dismissal on the basis that I lack jurisdiction to review this matter, as it involves alleged violations of the Freedom of Information Law.

The appeal must be dismissed for petitioner's failure to include in his petition a basis upon which he is entitled to relief (8 NYCRR '275.10; Application of a Child with a Handicapping Condition, 31 Ed Dept Rep 65; Appeal of Fassler, 31 id. 15). The petition, as drafted, appears to challenge the district's failure to find that respondent Colistra violated his rights. In an appeal before the Commissioner of Education, the petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of Bach, 32 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision #12828, dated October 30, 1992; Appeal of Verity, 31 id. 485; Appeal of Singh, 30 id. 284). Petitioner's charges are unsubstantiated; devoid of evidence that respondent Colistra actually reviewed petitioner's notes.

In addition, petitioner requests the superintendent's rehabilitation for violating petitioner's right to privacy and his rights under the Freedom of Information Law. Petitioner offers no legal basis to grant such relief. As I indicated when I dismissed a prior appeal in which petitioner asserted violations of the Freedom of Information Law, the appropriate forum for addressing such allegations is the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Appeal of Mitzner, 32 Ed Dept Rep 101; Application of Eisner, 31 id. 517).

Since October 1991, petitioner has filed nine appeals before me, eight of which were dismissed. Since petitioner's pursuits, for the most part, are baseless and serve only to slow down a system designed to offer a forum for individuals who seek redress, petitioner is urged seriously to consider whether his claims have merit before he initiates another appeal. To do otherwise is not only costly and unnecessarily time consuming, it inevitably creates delays in the decision-making process for others with meritorious claims.