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Decision No. 14,536

Appeal of FRANK PUGLIESE from action of the Board of Education of the Rondout Valley Central School District regarding a special district meeting.

Decision No. 14,536

(February 12, 2001)

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Margo L. May, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the conduct of a special district meeting held by the Board of Education of the Rondout Valley Central School District ("respondent"). The appeal must be dismissed.

Respondent held a special district meeting on June 22, 2000, at which district voters approved a resubmitted budget by a vote of 2,005 to 1,946. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner raises several claims. Petitioner first contends that respondent permitted a pro-budget group to review the poll list and use district telephones to contact individuals and ask them to vote in support of the budget. Petitioner additionally asserts that it was improper for respondent to require voters to sign sheets of paper or a notebook rather than a ledger of registered voters. Petitioner also claims that respondent improperly permitted individuals who were not on the list of registered voters to vote without requesting identification, proof of residence in the district or proof of age. Petitioner additionally asserts that two voting machines malfunctioned, and that the votes contained therein were not properly recorded. Finally, petitioner claims that the special meeting was conducted in a school gym in a "circus atmosphere" and suggests that future elections be held at firehouses in the various towns making up the district.

Respondent admits that individuals were permitted to review the poll list, but denies that district telephones were used to contact district voters likely to support the budget. Respondent states that while the district has not adopted a system of personal voter registration and voters are not asked to sign registration cards, it does maintain a poll list as required by the Education Law. Respondent admits that two machines malfunctioned during the election, but states that they were fixed expeditiously and that the election was not affected. Respondent further denies that the election was conducted in a "circus atmosphere". Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed as untimely, and that petitioner has failed to meet his burden of proving that irregularities occurred or that any alleged improper activity affected the outcome of the election.

The appeal must be dismissed as untimely. An appeal to the Commissioner must be initiated within 30 days from the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of, unless excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown. The reasons for the failure must be set forth in the petition (8 NYCRR "275.16; Appeal of Long, 39 Ed Dept Rep 463, Decision No. 14,284). The appeal was initiated on September 12, 2000, more than 30 days after the June 22, 2000 election. Petitioner presents no excuse or reason whatsoever for the delay in the commencement of this proceeding, and the petition is thus dismissed as untimely.

While the appeal is dismissed on procedural grounds, I note that respondent’s papers indicate its position that it would have been improper to ask voters for proof of residency. Education Law "2018-c authorizes school districts without a system of personal registration to require voters to provide one form of proof of residency. The form of proof is to be determined by the district and may include, but is not limited to, a driver’s license, a non-driver identification card, a utility bill, or a voter registration card.

In view of the foregoing disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.