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Decision No. 14,446

Appeal of DIANE C. JASKI, et al., from action of the Board of Education of the Hoosick Falls Central School District, Nancy B. Chase, Superintendent, and George Holbrook, School Attorney, regarding the conduct of a board meeting.

Decision No. 14,446

(August 28, 2000)

Gunter Dully, Esq., attorney for respondents

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners challenge certain actions of the Board of Education of the Hoosick Falls Central School District ("board") and its superintendent and school attorney with respect to a board meeting conducted on June 12, 2000. The appeal must be dismissed.

On May 19, 2000, the budget proposed by the board for the 2000-2001 school year was defeated by district voters. Thereafter, the board met on June 12, 2000, to consider further action with respect to the budget. The school business manager presented a proposed contingency budget and recommended the same to the board for action. There was discussion as to whether to attempt to conduct a second budget vote prior to June 30, or to adopt a contingency budget. According to petitioners, it appeared that the board had tabled any further action on the budget question until its regular meeting on June 20. At approximately 10:45 p.m., the board went into executive session, which apparently lasted some time. Petitioners claim that they waited outside the school for the board to return to public session, but the school was locked and lights were extinguished. They claim that while the board was still in executive session, it decided, in violation of Article 7 of the Public Officers Law (Open Meetings Law) to conduct a second budget vote, and never returned to public session.

Thereafter petitioners learned that the board had opted for a second budget vote, and attempted to obtain copies of the proposed budget on June 15, fourteen days prior to the scheduled vote on June 29. Budget materials were not available, and it appears that the election notice erroneously stated that they would be available on June 20.

This appeal was commenced June 20, seeking, in part, an order staying the election scheduled for June 29. Petitioners’ request for a stay was denied on June 28, 2000.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. It is well settled that the Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Brown, 39 Ed Dept Rep 341, Decision No. 14,254; Appeal of Feiss, 37 id. 339, Decision No. 13,874; Appeal of Warner, 32 id. 533, Decision No. 12,907). With respect to petitioners’ request for a stay of the June 29 vote, which occurred as scheduled, no relief is now available. In addition, respondents’ answer points out that the voters of the district defeated the resubmitted budget on June 29, 2000.

Beyond interim relief, the petition seeks a number of remedies which are beyond the Commissioner’s authority, such as an order to the board to adopt a contingency budget, the commencement of an Article 78 proceeding on behalf of district residents pursuant to "107 of the Public Officers Law, the initiation of disciplinary action and criminal proceedings, and, if criminal convictions are secured, an order to defendants to pay all of their own expenses.

In view of this disposition, I need not discuss my lack of jurisdiction to enforce the Open Meetings Law (see, e.g., Application of Goldin, et al., 39 Ed Dept Rep 14, Decision No. 14,158; Appeal of Lambert, et al., 37 id. 588, Decision No. 13,935; Appeal of Gwinner, 37 id. 262, Decision No. 13,854). I have considered the parties’ other claims and arguments and find them without merit.