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Decision No. 12,915

Appeal of WESLEY EVANS MARTIN from action of the Board of Education of the Central Islip Union Free School District, Norman A. Wagner, as President of the Board of Education, and Robert H. Roisman, Sandra Townsend, Helen Brannon, Frederick Philips, Leslie Anderson, Patrick O'Brien, and Donna Schuler, as candidates for election, relating to the rejection of a nominating petition.

Decision No. 12,915

(April 15, 1993)

Pelletreau & Pelletreau, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Kevin A. Seaman, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from the rejection of his nominating petition as a candidate for the Board of Education of the Central Islip Union Free School District. Petitioner also seeks an order barring all of the respondent candidates from being certified to office. Petitioner further asserts that respondent board unlawfully modified a voter proposition submitted by him. The appeal must be dismissed.

At a special meeting conducted by respondent board on May 4, 1992, respondent rejected petitioner's nominating petition on the basis that petitioner was not a resident of the district for one year prior to the June 3, 1992 election. At that meeting, respondent board also accepted the nominating petitions submitted by seven other individuals seeking office.

On March 9, 1992, petitioner and another individual filed with the district clerk a proposition with a $295,000 appropriation to reduce the cafeteria program deficit. Respondent board placed a similar proposition on the ballot, but with a reduced amount of $100,000.

Petitioner contends that he has been and remains a taxpayer and resident of the Central Islip Union Free School District. Therefore, he claims rejection of his nominating petition based on non-residency was arbitrary and capricious and done to maliciously injure him. Petitioner further contends that all of the nominating petitions accepted by respondent were defective because they failed to note that one of the three vacant board seats was due to a resignation. Petitioner claims that he was the only candidate to submit a proper nominating petition referencing the unexpired term. Petitioner also contends that respondent board was without authority to modify his cafeteria deficit reduction proposition. Respondent contends as an affirmative defense that petitioner lacks standing to bring the instant action because he is not a resident of the district. Since he is not a resident of the district, respondent contends that it was warranted in rejecting petitioner's nominating petition. With respect to the merits of petitioner's claim that the nominating petitions of the other candidates were defective, respondent asserts that the district has at-large elections and, therefore, candidates need not specify that they are running for a particular seat.

Respondent contends with respect to the cafeteria deficit reduction proposition, that at its March 9, 1992 meeting, the board approved a proposition to be submitted to the voters concerning the appropriation of money for deficit reduction of the cafeteria operation. The amount of such appropriation had not been established. Respondent further contends that at its May 4, 1992 meeting, the board determined that the appropriate amount was $100,000 and placed the subject proposition on the ballot containing that amount. Therefore, the cafeteria proposition was the one submitted by the board and not by petitioner, although the wording was similar except for different monetary amounts.

I will first address respondent's procedural claim that petitioner lacks standing to bring this appeal. I have addressed the issue of petitioner's residency status in two prior appeals (Appeal of Martin, 32 Ed Dept Rep 208; Appeal of Martin, 32 id. 381). I find, as I did in those appeals, that the record supports respondent's determination that petitioner is not a resident of the district. Petitioner has not presented any new evidence to support his claim that he is a resident of the district. Because he is a nonresident, I find petitioner lacks standing to bring this appeal (Appeal of Martin, supra).

The appeal must be dismissed on the merits as well. Education Law '2018(b) provides that when electors adopt a proposition providing that vacancies upon a board of education shall not be considered separate and specific offices that the nominating petitions need not describe any specific vacancy upon the board of education for which the candidate is running. Such a proposition was adopted by respondent board. Accordingly, petitioner has provided no legal support for his contention that the nominating petitions of the other candidates were defective for failing to refer to an unexpired term of office.

Similarly, petitioner's claim that respondent board was required to place his proposition as submitted to the electorate is without merit. Pursuant to Education Law '1716, it is a board of education's duty to present the voters with an annual budget. A board of education may not be compelled to place before the voters at an annual meeting all propositions submitted in conformity with '2035 and its bylaws, regardless of ambiguity, feasibility, or difficulty in interpreting election results when conflicting matters are voted on simultaneously (Matter of Prout, et al., 10 Ed Dept Rep 67; Matter of Gang, et al., 23 id. 118; Appeal of Krause, 27 id. 57). A board must exercise its independent judgment to ensure that the will of the voters can be ascertained. Placing two propositions before the electorate covering the exact same matter with two different appropriations, such as the propositions offered by petitioner and respondent board, would be confusing. Respondent board did not abuse its discretion and authority by declining to put petitioner's proposition before the voters.

I have also considered petitioner's remaining contentions and find them without merit.