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Decision No. 18,113

Appeal of BRYAN MADDEN, on behalf of his child, from action of the Board of Education of the Rockville Centre Union Free School District, regarding personnel appointments.  

Decision No. 18,113

(April 27, 2022)

Sokoloff Stern LLP, attorneys for respondent, Leo Dorfman and Chelsea Weisbord, Esqs., of counsel

Petitioner appeals a decision of the Board of Education of the Rockville Centre Union Free School District (“respondent” or “the board”) to not appoint two individuals to positions as athletic coaches.  The appeal must be dismissed.

ROSA., Commissioner.--Petitioner’s child (“the student”) attends respondent’s high school where, according to petitioner, she was named captain of the girls’ varsity soccer team in 2021.  At the district’s July 21, 2021 meeting, respondent convened in executive session to discuss, among other things, “specific personnel … matters.”  Thereafter, in public session, respondent voted 3 to 2 against reappointing Jennifer Abgarian and Christopher Aloisi to serve as coaches of the girls’ varsity soccer team.[1]  This appeal ensued.  Petitioner’s request for interim relief was denied on August 23, 2021.

Petitioner alleges that three board members “deliberated separately” prior to the July 21 meeting concerning the coaches, which violated the Open Meetings Law.  Additionally, petitioner contends that board member Christine Ferazani should have recused herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.  Petitioner seeks an investigation into the conduct and circumstances surrounding the July 21 vote, a censure of board president John O’Shea for failing to recuse Ms. Ferazani, and Ms. Ferazani’s removal from the board.

Respondent argues that the petition is subject to dismissal as untimely, for failure to join a necessary party, for lack of standing, and for lack of jurisdiction over Open Meetings Law claims.  On the merits, respondent contends that it has broad discretion to make appointments and lawfully exercised its authority in the July 21 vote.

Initially, petitioner’s claims alleging a violation of the Open Meetings Law must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.  Public Officers Law § 107 vests exclusive jurisdiction over alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law in the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Appeal of Flippen, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,296; Appeal of McColgan and El-Rez, 48 id. 493, Decision No. 15,928).  Therefore, such allegations may not be adjudicated in an appeal pursuant to Education Law § 310, and I have no jurisdiction to address the Open Meetings Law allegations raised in this appeal.

The appeal must be dismissed for failure to join necessary parties.  A person or entity whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of Murray, 48 id. 517, Decision No. 15,934).  Joinder requires that a party be clearly named as a respondent in the caption and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition, informing the party to appear in the appeal and to answer the allegations contained in the petition (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of Murray, 48 id. 517, Decision No. 15,934).  Petitioner seeks reinstatement of Ms. Abgarian and Mr. Aloisi as coaches and removal of Ms. Ferazani from the board.  Since a decision on the merits of the appeal implicates the employment status of the coaches and Ms. Ferazini’s position on the board, they are necessary parties to the proceeding.  Therefore, the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join them (see Appeal and Application of McGovern, 61 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 18,075; Appeal of Nelson, 55 id., Decision No. 16,845; Appeal of Reed, et al., 33 id. 216, Decision No. 13,029). 

Even assuming that the appeal were not dismissed for failure to join necessary parties, it would be dismissed on the merits.  In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (8 NYCRR §275.10; Appeal of P.C. and K.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,337; Appeal of Aversa, 48 id. 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884).

The record reflects that respondent declined to appoint the coaches after convening in executive session.  I note that the Public Officers Law specifically permits discussion of the “employment history of a particular person … or matters leading to the appointment[] [or] employment … of a particular person” in executive session (Public Officers Law § 105 [1] [f[).[2]  Moreover, petitioner has not established that board member Ferazani’s prior knowledge of the coaches or expressions of opinion thereto constituted an impermissible conflict of interest (see generally General Municipal Law §§ 800 et seq.).  Finally, respondent was entitled to reject the superintendent’s recommendation and refuse to appoint the coaches (Appeal of Chichester, 39 Ed Dept Rep 470, Decision No. 14,286).

I lack authority to grant petitioner’s additional requests for relief.  To the extent that petitioner seeks an investigation, an appeal to the Commissioner is appellate in nature and does not provide for investigations (Appeal of D.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,223; Appeal of Huffine, 48 id. 386, Decision No. 15,893).  Additionally, there is no provision of the Education Law that would authorize the public censure or reprimand of a board of education or its members (see Appeal of X.R.O., 60 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,904; Appeal of M.E.K., 56 id., Decision No. 16,988).

In light of this determination, I need not address petitioner’s remaining contentions.




[1] According to respondent, Ms. Abgarian had been appointed annually as the head coach for the varsity girls’ soccer team since the fall of 2017, and Mr. Aloisi had been appointed to the assistant coach position since the fall of 2015.  


[2] Additionally, respondent denies petitioner’s contention that three members met outside of a board meeting, which is otherwise not supported by the record.