Skip to main content

Decision No. 13,894

Appeal of MAUREEN GARDNER, LINDA LAZZARI, and DEBRA BUESSER, from action of the Board of Education of the AuSable Valley Central School District regarding the validity of a school district meeting.

Decision No. 13,894

(March 23, 1998)

Stafford, Trombley, Purcell, Owens & Curtin, P.C., attorneys for

respondent, Dennis D. Curtin, Esq., of counsel

Mills, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the validity of a meeting of the Board of Education of the AuSable Valley Central School District ("respondent"), held on August 20, 1997, and the action taken at that meeting to appoint a person to fill a board vacancy. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are residents of the AuSable Valley Central School District. They contend that respondent gave insufficient notice of a school board meeting, held on August 20, 1997, to address, among other things, the appointment of a board member to fill an unexpired term left vacant by a resignation. Two public notices were issued announcing this meeting. One notice was published on August 19, 1997 in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, and a second notice was also published in the same paper on August 20, 1997. The August 19th notice stated that the, "meeting will start at 6 p.m. A closed session may be held from 6 to 6:50 p.m. If so, the open portion of the meeting would start at 7 p.m." The August 20th notice stated that the meeting was, "scheduled for 7 tonight at the High School." The meeting was held on August 20, 1997, and was called to order at 6:00 p.m. At that time, respondent amended the board agenda so that the filling of the vacancy was moved from the 9th item on the agenda to be the first order of business. By a 4 to 2 vote, respondent appointed Joseph Zaleski to fill the unexpired term left vacant by the resignation of David McClellan. As soon as respondent concluded this piece of business, the board voted to convene an executive session to discuss personnel appointments. The board reconvened at 6:50 p.m., concluding the remainder of its business before the public.

Petitioners allege that the meeting held on August 20, 1997 was "invalid" for lack of proper notice. They claim that the timeframes for the meeting were not adhered to as published in the Press-Republican. Petitioners request that I rescind the appointment of Joseph Zaleski made at the August 20, 1997 meeting, and that a new appointment be made at a public meeting of respondent board.

Respondent contends that the board validly exercised its right to appoint a qualified person to fill a vacancy on the board. Respondent further contends that it has no responsibility for any inaccurate information reported by the Press-Republican as to the time of the meeting, and that any discrepancy was inadvertent. Furthermore, respondent alleges that the first notice published in the newspaper stated that the meeting would begin at 6:00 p.m.

Although petitioners appeal under Education Law "310, the crux of petitioners’ complaint concerns notice of a public meeting, and thus purported violations of the Open Meetings Law. I have repeatedly held that such allegations may not be the basis for an appeal to the Commissioner of Education (Appeal of Gwinner, 37 Ed Dept Rep 262; Appeal of Van Zile, et al., 37 id. 213; Appeal of Pulvermacher, 36 id. 333; Appeal of Marek, 35 id. 314). The appropriate forum for addressing violations of the Open Meetings Law is the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Public Officers Law "107). Accordingly, this appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties' remaining contentions.