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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A school board member seeking the removal of another member must demonstrate willful misconduct or neglect of duty of the part of the member

A school board member seeking the removal of another member must demonstrate willful misconduct or neglect of duty of the part of the member
Matter of Powell and Elliott, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision 16,216

Willa Powell, a member of the Board of Education of the Rochester City School District asked the Commissioner to remove another member of the board, Cynthia Elliott, alleging that Elliott had “willful and substantive disclosure of confidential information” acquired in the course of her official duties to a newspaper.

The Commissioner denied Powell’s application.

The Commissioner explained that a member of the board of education or a school officer may be removed from office pursuant to Education Law §306 when it is proven to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the board member or school officer has engaged in a willful violation or neglect of duty under the Education Law or has willfully disobeyed a decision, order, rule or regulation of the Board of Regents or Commissioner of Education.

To be considered willful, the actions of the individual must have been intentional and with a wrongful purpose.

Here, said the Commissioner, Powell had not met her burden of proving that Elliott had engaged in behavior constituting a willful violation or neglect of duty requiring her removal from office to his satisfaction. As to the evidence advanced by Powell, the Commissioner ruled that the fact that the draft report released to the media “contains a code linked back to the copy intended for [Elliott], does not in itself prove that [Elliott] released it, much less that she intentionally released it.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume50/d16216.htm

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