Skip to main content

Decision No. 18,033

Application of KATHLEEN REGO for the removal of Steve Bartlemus as a member of the Board of Education of the Northern Adirondack Central School District.

Decision No. 18,033

(August 17, 2021)

Harris Beach, PLLC, attorneys for respondent, Douglas E. Gerhardt, Esq. & Amanda E. Jackson, Esq., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner seeks the removal of Steve Bartlemus (“respondent”) as a member of the Board of Education of the Northern Adirondack Central School District (the “board”).  The application must be denied.

Given the disposition of this appeal, a detailed recitation of the facts is unnecessary.  Respondent held its annual budget meeting virtually on June 1, 2020.  During the meeting, respondent uttered an obscenity in response to comments made by petitioner.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner complains that respondent directed “[u]nprofessional, rude, and vulgar language” toward her in response to her questions.  Petitioner seeks respondent’s removal from the board; that respondent be permanently barred from running and serving on any school board in the future; and that respondent provide a written apology to her for his unprofessional behavior.

Respondent argues that the appeal must be dismissed, among other reasons, for improper service.  Respondent admits that he used an obscenity but denies making the specific remark attributed to him by petitioner.  Respondent further asserts that he spoke out of frustration because petitioner did not permit others to speak; that he apologized at a subsequent board meeting; and that his conduct does not rise to the level required to remove a board member from office under Education Law § 306.

The application must be denied for lack of personal service.  Section 275.8 (a) of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that the petition be personally served upon each named respondent.  If a school district is named as a respondent, service upon the school district shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service (8 NYCRR 275.8 [a]; Appeal of B.H., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,246; Appeal of Peterson, 48 id. 530, Decision No. 15,939). 

Petitioner’s affidavit of service indicates that the petition was sent by U.S. mail to respondent’s district clerk.  There is no evidence that petitioner made any other attempt at effectuating service.  Service by U.S. mail does not constitute valid service of a petition pursuant to Education Law § 306 (Applications of Balen, 40 Ed Dept Rep 250, Decision No. 14,474; see generally Appeal of L.L., 54 id., Decision No. 16,670; Appeal of K.R., 40 id. 189, Decision No. 14,457).  Moreover, although former section 275.8 (f) of the Commissioner’s regulations provided an alternative method of service during the State disaster emergency related to COVID-19, petitioner’s mailing of the petition alone did not satisfy the requirements of this subsection (see Appeal of Megerell and Yager, 60 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,996).[1]  Petitioner has not submitted a reply or otherwise responded to respondent’s assertions.  Therefore, the application must be denied for lack of personal service.

Although the application must be denied on procedural grounds, respondent’s conduct was entirely inappropriate, particularly for a member of a board of education.[2]  I admonish respondent “to comport himself in the future in a manner befitting a holder of public office” (Matter of the Application of the Bd. of Educ. of the Dansville Cent. School Dist. et al., 22 Ed Dept Rep 240, Decision No. 10,947).

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




[1] Additionally, even assuming that petitioner effectuated valid service on the district clerk, this would not constitute service on respondent.  Although a district clerk is authorized to accept service on behalf of the board of education, the district clerk generally cannot do so for individual respondents (8 NYCRR 275.8 [a]; Appeal of S.S., 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,492; Appeal of Kaufman, et al., 57 id., Decision No. 17,250; Appeal of Budich and MacDonald, 54 id., Decision No. 16,774). 


[2] While the record contains an audio recording of the meeting in question, I cannot determine respondent’s exact remarks, which occur slightly after the 57 minute mark, due to the poor quality of the recording.