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Decision No. 18,049

Appeal of MICHAEL VASQUEZ from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Binghamton regarding a school district election.

Decision No. 18,049

(September 20, 2021)

Coughlin & Gerhart LLP, attorneys for respondent, Nathan D. VanWhy, Esq., of counsel

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges a determination of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Binghamton (“respondent”) to allow a candidate, C.H., (“C.H.” or the “candidate”) to be placed on the ballot of respondent’s May 2021 election.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Given the disposition of this appeal, a detailed recitation of the facts is unnecessary.  In respondent’s district, individuals seeking to be placed on the ballot for a position on the school board must obtain 50 signatures on a nominating petition.  C.H. collected 89 valid signatures in support of her candidacy and, thus, was placed on the ballot.  District officials rejected two separate challenges from petitioner regarding the validity of these signatures.  The election was held on May 18, 2021, and the district certified the results on the following day.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on May 21, 2021.

Petitioner argues that many of the signatures obtained by the candidate were not validly obtained, incorrect, or incomplete.  For relief, petitioner seeks determinations:  (1) as to whether “solicited petition signatures are valid if an individual is unable to provide consent … due to intoxication from mind-altering psychoactive drugs …”; (2) that petitioner presented “allegation[s] and/or specific evidence” in support of his claims to respondent; and (3) that the “dates and addresses on [C.H.’s] petition forms … are not correct or adequate ….”

Respondent denies petitioner’s contentions and asserts that the appeal must be dismissed for, among other reasons, improper service and failure to join a necessary party.

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 that no longer exists due to the passage of time or a change in circumstances (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937; see Matter of Hearst Corp. v Clyne, 50 NY2d 707, 714 [1980]).  Where the Commissioner can no longer award a petitioner meaningful relief on his or her claims, no live controversy remains and the appeal must be dismissed (Appeal of R.B., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,394; Appeal of N.C., 40 id. 445, Decision No. 14,522). 

The signatures that petitioner disputes were obtained so that C.H.’s name could be placed on the ballot for the May 18, 2021 election.  In an affidavit dated June 7, 2021, counsel for respondent indicates that C.H. was not a successful candidate in that election.  Therefore, even if I were to sustain petitioner’s allegations, no meaningful relief could be granted under the circumstances (Appeal of Najm, 59 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,853).  Petitioner’s remaining requests for relief are abstract in nature and do not relate to a live controversy.  It is well established that the Commissioner does not issue advisory opinions or declaratory rulings in an appeal pursuant to Education Law § 310 (Appeal of He, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,299; Appeal of Leake, 57 id., Decision No. 17,235; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 411, Decision No. 15,899).

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