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Decision No. 16,349

Appeal of JOAN R. GANZ, from action of the Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District regarding an election.

Decision No. 16,349

(April 17, 2012)

Minerva & D’Agostino, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Roslyn Z. Roth, Esq., of counsel

KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals actions of the Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District (“respondent”) regarding the conduct of the district’s May 2011 election (“election”).  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner asserts, among other things, that her polling place during the election was dangerously overcrowded and did not ensure privacy in voting. Petitioner asks that I order the district to conduct an independent analysis and plan to address alleged deficiencies which caused confusion and overcrowding at the polls.  Petitioner further asks that such plan be subject to the review and approval of the State Education Department and the Rockland County Board of Elections. 

Respondent asserts, among other things, that the appeal is untimely.  Respondent concedes that petitioner’s polling place was crowded and asserts that it will be enlarged to accommodate voters.

An appeal to the Commissioner must be commenced within 30 days from the making of the decision or the performance of the act complained of, unless any delay is excused by the Commissioner for good cause shown (8 NYCRR §275.16; Appeal of Lippolt, 48 Ed Dept Rep 457, Decision No. 15,914; Appeal of Williams, 48 id. 343, Decision No. 15,879).  The election occurred on May 17, 2011.  Accordingly, petitioner had until June 16, 2011 to commence an appeal.  The appeal was commenced on September 19, 2011.  Petitioner acknowledges that, on June 7, 2011, she attempted to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, and that, on July 29, 2011, she was informed by the State Education Department that she could file an appeal to the Commissioner pursuant to Education Law §310.  However, petitioner contends, without providing specifics, that she was delayed in doing so “due to the effects” of Hurricane Irene, which occurred in August 2011, well beyond the 30 days to commence an appeal.  She also asserts that she did not know how or to whom to challenge the voting conditions.  Except in unusual circumstances, ignorance of the appeal process does not afford a sufficient basis to excuse a delay in commencing an appeal (Appeal of Stieffenhofer, 48 Ed Dept Rep 231, Decision No. 15,846; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 146, Decision No. 15,821).  I find that petitioner has failed to provide good cause for her delay in filing this appeal.

In light of this disposition, I need not consider the parties’ remaining contentions.  However, I encourage respondent to continue its efforts to ensure that its polling places can accommodate district voters.