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The board of the East Ramapo School District, which is no stranger to mismanagement, poor communication, and closed door meetings, is once again being criticized for a decision to call one of those closed door meetings.
On October 5th, a judge in New City ruled that the board’s motion to eliminate twenty bus driver positions in May 2014 was improper. The board had entered into executive session “to discuss litigation, personnel, real estate and contracts.” In that executive session, the board presumably discussed the bus driver situation before acting.
The judge found that the board’s reason for the executive session was not specific enough. “Merely reciting to ‘litigation, personnel, real estate and contracts’ as the basis for entering into executive session, without describing with some detail the nature of the proposed discussions, the Board of Education has done exactly what the Open Meetings Law was designed to prevent.”
Under the Open Meetings Law, an executive session can only be entered into for the following reasons:
- matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
- any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
- information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;
- discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
- collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;
- the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
- the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and
- the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.
It is unclear if the judge’s decision to vacate the district’s motion to eliminate the positions will result in the laid-off drivers receiving back pay or if they will get their jobs back.
This lawsuit ought to serve as a reminder to the board that they serve to represent the interests of the people living in the district. Entering into executive session without a justifiable reason inhibits citizens’ ability to access and participate in the district’s decisions.
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