Friday, January 20, 2012

Application seeking the removal of a school official must give the official notice of the application being filed


Application seeking the removal of a school official must give the official notice of the application being filed
Application of Donald B. Oglesby regarding an election, and application for the removal of Superintendent Lisa Wiles, board members Karin Osterhoudt and Phillip Mattracion, and teachers Denise Moore, James Pidel and Ann Beukelman, Commissioner of Education Decision #16,311

The Commissioner viewed Donald B. Oglesby’s applications as challenging an election to select members of the school board and to remove the school superintendent and certain board members and teachers from their respective positions.

As to the application for removal of the school officials and teachers, the Commissioner said that it must be denied because the notice of petition is defective.  

Commissioner’s regulations require that the notice accompanying a removal application specifically advise a school officer that an application is being made for his or her removal from office (8 NYCRR §277.1[b]).  In this case, Oglesby failed to give such notice and, instead, used the notice prescribed under §275.11(a) for appeals brought pursuant to Education Law §310.  

The Commissioner explained that “A notice of petition which fails to contain the language required by the Commissioner’s regulation is fatally defective and does not secure jurisdiction over the intended respondent.”

Further, the Commissioner rejected Oglesby’s application to remove certain teachers from their positions, indicating that tenured teachers are school district employees, not school officers, and are thus not subject to removal under Education Law §306.

Other technical and substantive issues addressed by the Commissioner in considering Oglesby’s application included:

Verification of the application: §275.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that all pleadings in an appeal to the Commissioner be verified; Oglesby’s reply was not verified in violation of §275.5 and not considered by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner declining to consider material submitted in unsworn documents from Oglesby, noting that additional affidavits, exhibits and other supporting papers may only be submitted with the prior permission of the Commissioner.

The failure of Oglesby to serve the named individuals in his application with copies of tape recordings or video tapes that were “were alleged to be attached as exhibits to the petition” as otherwise required by §275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s regulations -- a “copy of the petition, together with all of petitioner’s affidavits, exhibits, and other supporting papers . . . shall be personally served upon each named respondent . . . .” 

As to newspaper articles submitted by Oglesby, the Commissioner said that “It is well settled that newspaper articles do not constitute evidence of the truth of the statements contained therein.”

The Commissioner rejected school districts claim that certain of the act complained of were untimely. The Commissioner held that it would be “unreasonable and detrimental to the efficient resolution of a petitioner’s claims to require that petitioner institute separate appeals with respect to acts comprising a series of events closely related to the election” complaint. In such circumstances, even though the appeal involves acts occurring more than 30 days from the date the appeal is commenced, I have declined to dismiss the appeal as untimely provided the appeal is commenced within 30 days of the election [citations omitted].

Finally, the Commissioner said that to the extent that Oglesby raised claims that do not arise under the Education Law, such as defamation and slander, he lacked lack jurisdiction over such claims.

The Commissioner’s decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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