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Decision No. 13,678

Appeal of WILLIAM J. HENDRICKSON, from action of the Board of Education of the Roscoe Central School District, regarding a coaching assignment.

Decision No. 13,678

(September 27, 1996)


Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Jay M. Siegel, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the refusal of the Board of Education of the Roscoe Central School District ("board") to rehire him as an assistant football coach for the 1995 season. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a resident of the Roscoe Central School District. Prior to 1995, he had been an assistant football coach for eleven seasons. Throughout that time period, the board employed three football coaches each season.

During August 1994, petitioner was involved in an altercation with Kevin Roberts, who was and continues to be a board member. Petitioner also alleges that he has for some time videotaped board meetings, a practice which he states has made the board "uncomfortable." Nevertheless, petitioner was hired as a paid assistant football coach for the 1994 season and as an unpaid assistant basketball coach for the 1994-1995 season. During the 1994 football season, Kevin Roberts' wife commenced a legal action against petitioner's mother-in-law. When petitioner's mother-in-law died in November 1994, he became her executor and continued the defense of the lawsuit.

In 1995, petitioner again sought the assistant football coach position, and was recommended by the Athletic Director. On July 26, 1995, the board voted to reduce the number of football coaches from three to two, and voted to rehire Frederick Ahart as head football coach and James Bowers, who had ten years of coaching experience in the district, as the only assistant football coach. Petitioner was not hired as either a paid assistant football coach or as an unpaid assistant basketball coach. The board further confirmed its action on August 28, 1995, and this appeal ensued.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. It is well settled that the Commissioner will only decide matters which are in actual controversy and will not render a decision upon facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Campese, 36 Ed Dept Rep 17; Appeal of Berheide, 35 id. 412; Appeal of Capeless, 35 id. 454; Appeal of Healy, 34 id. 611; Appeal of Lanoir, 34 id. 562; Appeal of Hartmann, 32 id. 640; Appeal of Heinz, 31 id. 326). In this appeal, the 1995 football season has long ago ended. Indeed, the parties were still filing papers with my Office of Counsel after the close of the season. Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits. It is clear that petitioner's previous coaching assignments have been in the nature of at-will employment for each individual season. Petitioner has not established any implied contract or other legal basis that would have given him the right to be hired in 1995. Although petitioner claims that he has "seniority" over Mr. Bowers, there is no basis for such a claim where neither the tenure nor civil service statutes have any application.

Petitioner essentially claims that personal hostility between himself and a board member is the sole reason for the board's action. The board minutes, however, reflect a long discussion prior to reducing the number of coaching positions. There is an indication that while the board had previously acted to reduce costs in many areas, it had not yet made any cuts in the costs of the athletic program. Petitioner has neither alleged nor proven any discrimination of a forbidden nature, such as race, sex, etc., nor has he alleged or proven any violation of 8 NYCRR '135.4(c)(7)(i)(c). In summary, petitioner has not carried his burden of proof, and has failed to demonstrate any legal right to the position he sought.