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Decision No. 15,350

Appeal of the BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NORTH MERRICK PUBLIC LIBRARY, and CATHERINE ROMANELLI, ELISE JOHNSEN, ANGELAMAE ABBENE, ANDREW LICHY and MAGDALENA RODRIGUEZ, as library trustees and individually as residents of the North Merrick Union Free School District, from action of the Board of Education of the North Merrick Union Free School District and John Pinto, Linda Fuller, Jonathan Butler, Mathew Kushner, Alyse Middendorf, Karen Repole and John Rossi, individually as members of the board, and Nancy E. Dies, District Clerk, regarding the conduct of an annual district meeting.

Decision No. 15,350

(January 24, 2006)

Behrens, Loew & Cullen, attorneys for petitioners, William M. Cullen, Esq., of counsel

Minerva & D'Agostino, P.C., attorneys for respondents, Melinda N. Sims, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--The Board of Trustees of the North Merrick Public Library ("library board") and the trustees, both individually and in their official capacities, appeal the failure of the Board of Education of the North Merrick Union Free School District ("respondent board") to place a proposition for construction and renovation of library facilities before the public at a special district meeting held on May 17, 2005, as the library board had requested. The appeal must be dismissed.

The North Merrick Public Library ("library") is a school district public library. The building that houses the library was operated by respondent board as a school until approximately 1965. In 1978, respondent board began leasing the building to the library board for use as a library. By public vote in 1986, the voters approved a proposition designating the building as the "permanent site" of the library, although it appears that respondent board retained title to the building.

In July 2004, the library board requested that respondent board give notice and conduct a special district meeting to place a bond proposition for construction and renovation of library facilities before district voters. The special district meeting was held December 14, 2004 and the voters rejected the proposition.

On February 15, 2005, the library board resolved to resubmit the proposition to the public at the school district's May 17, 2005 annual district meeting and directed respondent board to place the proposition on the ballot. There is some dispute in the record over what happened next. Petitioners state that respondent board, at its March 15, 2005 meeting, failed to consider placing the proposition on the ballot, and respondents state that the board had scheduled a special meeting on March 22, 2005 to resolve issues between the library and the school district. This appeal ensued. Petitioners' request for interim relief was denied on March 25, 2005.

Petitioners contend that respondents violated their statutory duty to take the necessary steps to place the proposition on the ballot at the annual district meeting. Petitioners requests an order directing respondent board to give notice and conduct the library bond referendum at the May 17, 2005 annual district meeting.

Respondents allege that the appointment of two of the members of the library board is invalid and that the library board is attempting to hold the school district's budget process hostage by reneging on a 2004 proposed agreement to transfer the library building to the library board. Respondents assert that the bond proposition cannot be put to a public vote until an environmental impact assessment pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQR") (ECL 8-0101, etseq.) has been conducted.

Petitioners, in their reply, assert that the library board members were properly appointed and argue that putting the same bond proposition previously voted on by the public up for a vote is not an "action" pursuant to SEQR requiring an environmental impact review.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot. The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of B.K. and R.K., 44 Ed Dept Rep 195, Decision No. 15,146; Appeal of V.L., 44 id. 160, Decision No. 15,132; Appeal of Garvin, 44 id. 30, Decision No. 15,087). The only relief sought in this appeal is the placement of the bond proposition on the May 2005 ballot. Interim relief was denied on March 25, 2005. Subsequently, on May 17, 2005, the annual district meeting took place. Accordingly, no meaningful relief can be granted and the appeal must be dismissed.

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