Jordan-Elbridge school board faces new Article 78 proceeding

2010-11-09T11:15:00Z 2010-11-09T15:00:58Z Jordan-Elbridge school board faces new Article 78 proceedingKelly Voll, The Citizen Auburn Citizen
November 09, 2010 11:15 am  • 

The most recent in a string of lawsuits against the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District Board of Education was filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Onondaga County.

In this latest Article 78 proceeding, David Zehner, Jordan-Elbridge high school principal, is alleging the board of education has recently committed a series of violations of the state Open Meetings Law by entering into executive session improperly. Zehner, according to the publicly available petition, is asking the court for:

- a declaration the board's resolutions to adjourn into executive session on the dates Oct. 4, 6, 19, 20 and 26, and Nov. 3 are insufficient and in violation of New York State Public Officers Law;

- a declaration that the executive sessions held on those dates were illegal;

- a declaration that the board's decision in executive session on Oct. 26 to appoint Larry Zacher as interim superintendent violated public officers law and is null and void;

- an order requiring the board to disclose specific matters it discussed in executive session on the dates above;

- more time for Zehner to petition for more court orders to make void other decisions illegally made in executive session on these six dates;

- a determination that the board is in contempt of court for violating the court's previous order that the board give more specific reasons for going into executive session than "boiler plate" language;

- an order to keep the board from further violations of state Open Meetings Law; and

- an award of reasonable attorneys fees.

Zehner, who has been suspended with pay since September for reasons not yet released to the public, filed an earlier Article 78 proceeding in October. In the October proceeding, he sought to have an alleged appointment of Sue Gorton, the district's assistant superintendent for instruction, made void because it was made in executive session. Zehner said the appointment was a violation of open meetings law.

In Zehner's first case, Judge Donald Greenwood ruled that the district's board of education illegally appointed Gorton during an executive session on July 21. As a result, Greenwood voided Gorton's appointment.

Greenwood cited a section of education law pertaining to Open Meetings Law in his October decision. The section of law, according to the New York State School Boards Association, states that "it is insufficient to merely regurgitate the statutory language such as 'discussions regarding proposed or pending litigation' without identifying the particular litigation."

When the board went into executive session on Oct. 26, the reasons given by board president Mary Alley for the executive session were "matters leading to appointment or employment of a particular person" and "discussions involving proposed, pending or current litigation."

Zehner said Oct. 26 that both of those reasons are "boiler plate" language, and not more specific reasons, as Greenwood directed the board to give.

During the board's Nov. 3 meeting, however, Alley, upon moving to go into executive session, crossed out the several "boiler plate" reasons on the agenda and replaced them with more specific reasons:

- To discuss proposed interim superintendent candidates' credentials, qualifications and matters leading to the appointment of an interim superintendent;

- Matters pertaining to the promotion, demotion, discipline or suspension of a particular person; and

- To confer with attorneys regarding legal matters.

Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or kelly.voll@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll.

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