The Jordan-Elbridge Board of Education unanimously rejected two settlement proposal offers from suspended, fired employees Wednesday night at Ramsdell Middle School.
Board members voted 7-0 to reject the $907,800 proposal by lawyer Dennis O’Hara, of O’Hara, O’Connell and Ciotoli. The firm represents suspended Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance William Hamilton, suspended School Principal David Zehner and fired district treasurer Anthony Scro.
Superintendent James Froio said that the settlement proposal was sent to the board members on July 1 by courier directly to their home.
“I was not aware of this settlement arrangement until I received phone calls from board members asking what I thought,” he said. “I wasn’t able to review until I got to my office. Therefore, the settlement was old news to the board members before our first board meeting on July 5.”
The first board meeting, Froio said, was suppose to be a reorganizational meeting. He postponed that meeting for the purpose of updating the school board on the litigation.
“At that meeting, after the board members were sworn in, we went into executive session and the school board members were updated on the litigation that the district is embroiled in.”
Froio met one-on-one with each school board member not only to get caught up about the goings on, but to get to know each member individually and get their thoughts on the goals and future with the district.
“Trust me, no vote needed to be taken,” Froio said. “No vote was taken.”
Froio stated that the board of education did receive criticism from the community to the effect that “no action is action.” He made the decision that it would be best for the board to react to the settlement proposals as they came to them.
Froio came to the defense of the school board, stressing to the community residents that they are not puppets of the superintendent.
“If they disagree with me they have no problem publicly or privately telling me so.”
The BOE was adamant in also rejecting lawyer Harris Lindenfeld’s proposal in which he offered to settle litigation on behalf of his client, former director of operations Paula VanMinos, in the amount of $168,000, a little more than half of the $308, 000 she contends was guaranteed in her contract.
“Basically for the same reasons,” Froio said, “I do not think this is in the best interest of the district. There was a question asked today about do we believe about going back and forth … and yeah, I threw out a number. It was zero. And that’s the number that I think is in the best interest of the school district.”