Appeals involving efforts to remove a member of a school board from office
2.The written charges dated June 8, 2017 are hereby approved and preferred against Lamont Johnson.
3.Pursuant to its authority, the Board designates Raymond L. Colon, Esq. as hearing officer for said charges and to provide an oral or written report of the hearing, together with any recommendations, to the Board President as soon as possible after conclusion of the hearing.
1. You are a member of the Board of Education of the Hempstead Union Free School District and have been a member since on or about 2013. You also previously held the position as President of the Board.
2. At all relevant times herein, you were present for and/or participated in various discussions related to Board elections and candidates. You did so in your official capacity as a member of the Board.
3. Prior to the 2017 Board elections, you assisted Randy Stith (hereinafter, “Stith”) in his campaign for election to the Board. As part of your assistance, you provided Stith with names and home addresses of various District employees, without permission, consent, or authority to do so for the purpose of creating political campaign literature, or otherwise, in furtherance of his candidacy to the Board.
4. On or about April 11, 2017, during, before, or after a Board meeting, you took part in a conversation with another Board member during which you revealed that you disclosed to Stith, in violation of the aforementioned District policies and Education Law, said names and addresses.
5. As a Board member, you have taken and sworn to the Constitutional Oath of Office, and to uphold all Board and District policies, including the aforementioned. Notwithstanding these facts, you violated the District policy of the strict non-disclosure of District employees’ names and home addresses:
a. Copies of the Stith campaign literature was received by multiple District employees.
b. You were observed having a private conversation with Board member Jackson by a third-party.
c. During that private conversation, you acknowledged and admitted to Board member Jackson that you provided Stith with the names and home addresses of District employees.
6. Notwithstanding your understanding and acceptance of the District policies and the Law, you violated the policy and the confidentiality and trust of the District employees and residents of the District.
7. Your actions as described herein constitute official misconduct as you have used your official position as Board member for personal and/or political benefit. As a member of the Board, you have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of information pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 805-a(b), applicable Education Law and decisions of the Commissioner of Education, District policies, and your oath of office. The identity of the District employees’ names and home addresses is confidential and was obtained by you in your capacity as a member of the Board in the course of your official duties.
Disclosure of those identities to Stith, or any individual, constitutes a violation of your duties and obligations as a member of the Board.
8.By violating your duties and obligations as a member of the Board, you compromised the District, the employees, and the integrity of the position of Board member. You also caused distress to those individuals who received the correspondence. As a result of the foregoing, you must be removed from the Board of Education of the Hempstead Union Free School District.
Sokoloff Stern LLP, attorneys for respondents Maribel Touré, Gwendolyn Jackson, and Mary Crosson, Melissa L. Holtzer, Esq., of counsel
On May 31, 2017, a majority of the board voted (3-2) to appoint special counsel to commence an investigation to determine whether Johnson disclosed district employee names and addresses to the Stith campaign. On June 8, 2017, a majority of the board voted (3-0) to prefer charges against Johnson for official misconduct for allegedly disclosing confidential district employee names and addresses to the Stith campaign. A hearing commenced on June 19, 2017, and concluded on June 30, 2017, with the hearing officer’s recommendation to remove Johnson, and on June 30, 2017, Figueroa’s last day in office, a majority of the board voted to remove Johnson (3-1).
Petitioner asserts that, on June 30, 2017, Touré, with the help of Jackson, “politically weaponized the power of removal vested in the BOE by NYS Education Law §1709(18), and misused and abused her power as BOE president, to cause the BOE to remove Trustee Lamont Johnson, without cause, and not for misconduct, but rather to punish him for being her political rival” and appointing her “political associate, Mary Crosson” to fill his vacancy. He further asserts that, on July 5, 2017, Touré, with help from Jackson, “completed her scheme to stay in power as BOE President, and to stay in control of the BOE with a 3-2 voting majority ... when she was re-elected as BOE President.”