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Decision No. 15,691

Application of THOMAS L. JEFFERSON for the removal of Stanley Merritt as a member of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Poughkeepsie.

Decision No. 15,691

(December 3, 2007)

Jerold S. Slate, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Shaw & Perelson, attorneys for respondent, Beth Sims, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks the removal of Stanley Merritt (“Merritt”) from his position as a member of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Poughkeepsie (“board”).  The application must be denied.

Merritt was appointed to the board on July 1, 2001 and served as president of the board from July 1, 2001 through July 2006.

On February 12, 2007, petitioner met with a former district employee to discuss matters pertaining to litigation that the former employee commenced against the district.  During this meeting, petitioner was provided with copies of sworn affidavits submitted by Merritt in support of the district’s position in these litigation matters.  Petitioner alleges that these affidavits contained confidential and privileged information discussed in executive session of the board, in violation of Merritt’s fiduciary duties, his oath of office and General Municipal Law §805-a(1)(b).  As a result, petitioner requests that Merritt be removed from his office as a member of the board.  Petitioner also requests attorney’s fees.

Merritt contends that petitioner has failed to demonstrate that he acted illegally or in violation of any relevant law or board policy and, therefore, the application must be denied.  Specifically, Merritt contends that he received consent and approval from the board to reveal executive session information when he submitted affidavits in these litigation matters.  Merritt further contends that the application must be denied because he was not properly served and the application is untimely.

The application 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 C.A., Sr., 45 Ed Dept Rep 388, Decision No. 15,360; Appeal of the New York Charter Schools Assn., Inc., et al., 45 id. 376, Decision No. 15,355; Appeal of the Bd. of Trustees of the N. Merrick Public Library, et al., 45 id. 363, Decision No. 15,350).  Pursuant to §276.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations, my Office of Counsel received confirmation that Merritt is no longer a member of the board.  Accordingly, petitioner’s application to remove him is moot.

As for petitioner’s request for attorney’s fees, the Commissioner has no authority to award monetary damages, costs or reimbursements in an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 (Appeal of T.R. and M.D., 43 Ed Dept Rep 411, Decision No. 15,036; Appeal of L.D. and M.D., 43 id. 144, Decision No. 14,947; Appeal of Moore, 41 id. 436, Decision No. 14,738).  Therefore, petitioner’s request must be denied.

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