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Decision No. 14,486

Application of STEWART S. LILKER for removal of Dante Grover, Albert Renken, Joyce Lisi, John Muscara and Ronald Ellerbe, as members of the Board of Education of the Freeport Union Free School District, and Mary Bediako as District Clerk.

Decision No. 14,486

(November 22, 2000)

Ingerman, Smith, L.L.P., attorneys for respondent, Lawrence W. Reich, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks the removal from office of the members of the Board of Education and the District Clerk of the Freeport Union Free School District ("respondents") because of alleged violations of law and district policies. The application must be denied.

Petitioner alleges that respondents held a secret board meeting on March 19, 1998 and a secret executive session on November 10, 1999 and failed to prepare minutes for such meetings. He seeks respondents’ removal from their respective offices for alleged willful violations of law, regulation and district policies. Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on February 4, 2000.

Respondents deny all of petitioner’s allegations and state that all required minutes of board meetings have been published. They assert that no board meeting was held on March 19, 1998, and that the November 10, 1999 executive session was properly convened. Respondents argue that the Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction in this matter because it involves the Open Meetings Law. Respondents also contend that the appeal is untimely and that petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Respondents argue that certain submissions and exhibits submitted by petitioner are improper and should not be considered.

The application must be denied because the gravamen of petitioner’s complaint relates to alleged improper meetings of the board, a matter squarely within the ambit of the Open Meetings Laws. Public Officers Law "107 vests exclusive jurisdiction over complaints alleging violations of the Open Meetings Law in the Supreme Court of the State of New York and alleged violations thereof may not be adjudicated in an appeal to the Commissioner (Appeal of Instone-Noonan, 39 Ed Dept Rep 413, Decision No. 14,275; Appeal of Goldin, 38 id. 317, Decision No. 14,043; Appeal of Lambert and MacDonald, 37 id. 588, Decision No. 13,935). Therefore, the application must be denied for lack of jurisdiction.

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