Jan 22, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The Jordan-Elbridge school board lost two cases in State Supreme Court Thursday.
In one, Judge Donald Greenwood ruled in favor of Anthony Scro, fired from the position of district treasurer on Sept. 15, 2010, ordering the district to reinstate Scro as treasurer immediately with back pay.
In the other, Greenwood ruled in favor of suspended principal David Zehner and his claim that the board had violated open meetings law. The J-E school board must participate in a training session with the state Committee on Open Government within 90 days and must also reimburse Zehner’s legal fees.
Scro said he is looking forward to getting back to work at Jordan-Elbridge and doing what he’s been educated to do — accounting.
“And there’s going to be a lot to do because it’s been five months since I’ve been away from it,” Scro said.
The school board, represented by attorney Frank Miller, claimed in court to have fired Scro because he failed to sign his oath of office properly. Greenwood ruled that Scro’s oath of office was submitted on time, and that the firing of Scro was beyond the power of the board.
“There is no doubt that if the petitioner [Scro] failed to file his oath of office within the requisite thirty days as required by the statute, the appointment would be vitiated and the office would be deemed vacant,” Greenwood’s ruling reads.
Greenwood ruled that the district’s clerk, Jeanette Brock, did not provide notice of Scro’s July 1, 2010 appointment until either July 12 or 13 – making Scro’s oath of office on Aug. 9 timely.
“In other words,” Greenwood ruled, ” the thirty days did not begin to run until Brock provided notice.”
The ruling prohibits the J-E school board from taking action against Scro without providing him notice of intent to file charges with the commissioner of education.
Scro said he hasn’t heard from the district, so he’s unsure whether he will be given all of his former responsibilities as treasurer.
He also said the district’s recovery will not be complete until Zehner and suspended Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Bill Hamilton are brought back.
“As far as my position goes, everything that I did I worked on as a team with Bill Hamilton,” Scro said. He’s hopeful that if he can be returned to J-E, the same could apply for Zehner and Hamilton.
“I’m pretty sure that the board did not anticipate me winning this case,” Scro said.
In Thursday’s ruling on Open Meetings Law, Greenwood referred to his Oct. 1 ruling (in a case also won by Zehner) that the J-E school board must give specific reasons for going into executive session, saying it is insufficient to “merely regurgitate the statutory language” required when going into executive session.
“Instead,” Greenwood ruled on Thursday, “to validly convene an executive session for discussion, the public entity must identify with particularity the topic to be discussed, since only through such identification will the purposes of the Open Meetings Law be realized.”
The court found the board to have offered boilerplate reasons for going into session, and to have repeatedly failed to comply with Open Meetings Law.
“The board’s reticence is perplexing,” Greenwood’s ruling reads.
Lawrence Zacher’s appointment to interim superintendent, however, as contested by Zehner, was not ruled void.
Greenwood rule that the board’s failure to follow proper meeting procedure was often tied to the superintendent search – “a process of great public concern and not within the exceptions to the requirement of the Open Meetings Law but for narrow circumstances.”