6, 2002 (Posted Jan. 12th)
Frpt School Board Ignores Law
While Residents Sleep
by Stewart S Lilker
Board President John
Muscara asks for a motion for executive session as Board members
Joe Cattano (left) and Sunday Coward (right) look on.
Superintendent Eversley and Board member Raab talked in the back
of the room. Board member Ellerbe arrived thirty minutes later.
Following in the footsteps of the
Roosevelt School Board, Freeport has now also sunk to calling emergency
meetings for early Sunday morning, while Freeportís residents sleep.
On Saturday night, January 5, 2001, FNYN
received a call from Freeport resident Carol Nelson. She said that she
had just seen a meeting notice posted on the school district
administration building calling for a Sunday morning meeting to discuss
"personnel and negotiations." Your reporter asked her to check
again, as he had received a call earlier in the week from past PTA
Co-president Stephanie Cieslik. Cieslik said there was a notice
of a special meeting posted at the high school. According to
Cieslik, the meeting was to discuss a "particular matter of
Nelson rechecked the notice and said,
"It definitely says Sunday morning for "matters personnel and
At 09:20 a.m. Sunday morning, your
reporter arrived in the board room at the districtís administration
building. The heat was blasting and the inside temperature was eighty
four degrees. As Mary Bediako, the District Clerk, finished setting out
a huge spread of food for the Board, your reporter asked, "Were
there any other notices for this meeting?" Bediako answered,
"No, this is the only notice."
The first line on the notice
posted on the administration building in big bold type states,
Before the meeting was called to order,
your reporter had a brief conversation with the new superintendent, Dr.
Eric Eversley, asking him the purpose of the meeting. Eversley said,
"We are meeting for matters of personnel and negotiations."
Your reporter pointed out that the law
requires specificity and that the number of matters, as well as a
reasonable description of them have to be identified. Eversley said,
"No they donít."
Your reporter told Eversley, "I
have already sent letters to the district explaining this. The
Commissioner of Open Government, as well as the courts have been clear.
The Board knows what they are supposed to do."
Eversley smiled and said, "You
prove it and Iíll do it."
Robert Freeman, the New York State
Commissioner of Open Government has said, "...descriptions of
executive sessions as "negotiations and personnel" are vague
and do not necessarily indicate that executive sessions were properly
Regarding personnel, Freeman explained,
"Public bodies often convened executive sessions to discuss matters
that dealt with "personnel" generally, tangentially, or in
relation to policy concerns. The Committee consistently advised that the
provision was intended largely to protect privacy and not to shield
matters of policy under the guise of privacy."
According to the courts, a public body
may conduct an executive session to discuss collective bargaining
negotiations with a public employee union. As such, Commissioner Freeman
has recommended that a proper motion might be: "I move to enter
into executive session to discuss the collective bargaining negotiations
involving the teachers' union."
At 09:45 a.m., secure that Commissioner
Mills, who has repeatedly claimed that he does not have jurisdiction
regarding Open Meetings Law violations, except in Roosevelt, Muscara
ignored NYS law once again by asking for a motion to go into executive
session "for matters of personnel and negotiations."