At a special meeting of the Island Trees Board of Education held on Dec. 10, the board voted 4-to-3 to rescind its previous resolution to establish a fact-finding committee regarding the lead contamination issue at Island Trees High School.
According to a notice sent to all district residents who submitted a letter of interest, it was stated at the meeting that since information regarding this issue was provided to the Nassau County District Attorney's office, the results of any investigation would need to be reviewed prior to the establishment of a district committee.
All Island Trees board members were asked to explain their vote and the reasoning behind it. Their responses are listed below.
Board member Patricia Mahon voted for the creation of the committee. She offered the following comments.
"I was quite disappointed by the actions of four of my fellow board members. All four of them voted in favor of having a committee research who might be held accountable for the action of dumping the sand illegally. The purpose of this was to see if the district could recoup some of the extra cost that this debacle has caused the district, and in turn the taxpayers. It was basically a fact-finding committee.
"This committee would have had no bearing on any criminal investigation that might be going on because it was to seek out damages, which would pertain to civil law. Therefore, when they gave the public the answer that they were voting to rescind the lead committee because of the district attorney's investigation, I would doubt the validity of that statement. Civil and criminal charges would not be in the same venue.
"I think that rescinding this committee, after the community was asked to be part of it, was a disgraceful action. It was reminiscent of the board's action to name a school for Richard Segerdahl, without ever consulting the public. The public rose and said, this was not the right thing to do, you do not take away the honor we have given to the veterans of this community.
"I apologize to the public who wanted to be part of the committee, and to the rest of the public who were entitled to know more of what happened back in 1999. Unfortunately, I along with Mr. Rochon and Mr. Buda, are in the minority when votes are taken.
"Furthermore, the release by the district was a letter that I, a board member, saw or approved. Therefore I do not condone this letter being sent out to the public."
Board member Ken Rochon also voted for the creation of a fact-finding committee.
"I voted for the committee both times. I felt that the motion made by Mrs. Holt at the Dec. 10 meeting to not have a committee after publicly stating at our last public meeting Nov. 19 that we were forming a committee was improper. One of the reasons my four colleagues on the BOE gave for not forming the committee, that the district attorney was investigating, I felt was not a valid reason. I don't feel that the committee would interfere with any ongoing or future investigations.
"My reasons for the formation of the committee to take a fresh look at all the issues concerning the lead. I felt that by getting members of the BOE, the unions (by the way all the unions declined), members of the community and the PTA together, they could look at the issues with a fresh set of eyes, and could make recommendations to the BOE."
Board member Robert Condela voted against creating the committee at the Dec. 10 meeting.
"I did vote to rescind the resolution to form a committee. Since the original resolution, it has come to the board's attention that a board member recently contacted the District Attorney's office. I think we should wait to see the results of their investigation and then decide what, if anything we should do. The fact we don't have a committee does not stop us from understanding any potential recourse we may have to pursue damages. We've been open, honest and have kept the community updated on this matter and will continue to do so."
Board member Joseph Buda said he made a motion to have all those applicants who submitted to be part of the community placed on such committee. The motion was defeated, 4-to-3 by board members, he added.
"Another motion made by Christine Holt requested the board to dissolve such the lead committee before it was ever formed. She stated the community-based committee would be biased, this was without her interviewing a single applicant. How could she make such a statement about our community residents whom had volunteered their own time and services to get to the bottom of this ever costly and damaging contamination?
"In both votes, I made a motion and voted to establish a committee with all the applicants; and in the other vote I voted to establish the committee we voted to establish in November of this year and not to dissolve it.
"I am ashamed of my fellow board members who changed their minds. I felt we let down the residents of the community who attended the meeting, they were disrespected and the fact that they went out of their way to take part in something that the board unanimously approved a month earlier, is a disgrace to the community at large."
Board President Peter Ray also voted against the committee, stating he didn't want the committee to interfere with a potential investigation by the district attorney.
However, Ray stated the board hasn't been notified if indeed an investigation has begun.
"Let the district attorney handle it and when they're finished, then we can move forward," Ray stated. "If we can recoup money, I'd be the first one to jump on that bandwagon. But I'm not getting involved in a witch hunt."
Board members Carl Bonsignore and Christine Holt did not respond.