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March 16, 2011

Administrative decisions and actions must be made in compliance to the law

Administrative decisions and actions must be made in compliance to the law
Cimino v Grasso, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, #14,319

Michael J. Cimino asked the Commissioner of Education to remove members of the board of education and the superintendent of the Plainedge Union Free School District.

The complaint: the board and the superintendent had spent $79,000 to illegally construct and equip a room for the board without first obtaining voter approval, without getting competitive bids and without the board adopting a resolution authorizing the expenditures.

Cimino also alleged that expenditures for the purchase of computers, computer desks and online service for home use by board members constitutes an unconstitutional gift of public monies [Article VIII, Section 1].

Contending that all the expenditures were made in good faith and for legitimate district interests, school superintendent Gene Grasso took full responsibility for the decision to fund the projects with operation and maintenance monies rather than as capital expenses. He also said that the board had absolutely no involvement in the project.

The Commissioner, with certain exceptions, said that serious violations of law and policy have occurred in this matter. However, he also stated that removal from office is a drastic remedy that should be taken only in extreme circumstances. As there was no evidence that the superintendent or board members willfully violated the law and the construction constituted a substantial and continuing benefit to the district, the Commissioner declined to exercise his power of removal.

The superintendent and the board members were told to be absolutely scrupulous in their future compliance with the law, as additional violations of this kind may well subject them to removal.
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