Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 17 July 2009 00:00
The Mineola School District has a clean slate. Not only does the district have a new superintendent, but it appears a lawsuit alleging serious claims against the former superintendent and deputy has been resolved. At the reorganization meeting of the Mineola Board of Education, board vice-president Terence Hale announced that the claims “have been dismissed.”
Since February 2008, a dark cloud had been hanging over the Mineola School District. That was when former district employee Ulana Illiano filed a lawsuit, seeking at least $7 million, claiming that superintendent of schools Dr. Larry Licopoli and deputy superintendent Michael Nagler created a hostile work atmosphere. The complaint alleged that Dr. Nagler made sexually offensive and unwanted and unwelcome comments and that Dr. Licopoli consistently made comments about Jews and Jewish holidays that were offensive to the plaintiff.
Both Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler vehemently denied the claims. The lawsuit was in the process of deposition when it was decided, according to the Mineola Board of Education, that the case would be dismissed without payments to anyone.
“All parties have agreed that all claims in this case have been dismissed without costs, disbursements and payments to anyone. Defendants at all times have denied the truth of the allegations in the lawsuit,” said Hale in the statement from the board of education.
Dr. Licopoli’s attorney Rick Ostrove, of the Carle Place law firm of Leeds Morelli & Brown, said last week that he had yet to see signed paperwork filed in the court, but it was his understanding that the case had been dismissed.
“We knew the case had no merit all along,” Ostrove said. “There’s no doubt in our mind that she [Illiano] alleged frivolous claims that just weren’t true. She said a lot of negative things about Dr. Licopoli that were false. She would never have been able to prove it. She didn’t deserve any money. We’re glad she stopped now before everyone had to invest more time for us to prove that these things weren’t true.”
For Dr. Nagler, his vindication may have already come. The board of education promoted him from deputy superintendent to superintendent of schools, effective July 1, to succeed Dr. Licopoli. However, Dr. Licopoli may not feel vindicated since he no longer is superintendent of schools despite the acknowledgment by some board members that he served the district well in his eight years on the job.
Dr. Licopoli’s contract expired on June 30 and it was not renewed by the board of education despite the fact that two members of the five-member board of education — Steve Siwinski and John McGrath — were in favor of extending his contract.
“The announcement speaks for itself,” Dr. Licopoli said of the board’s announcement that the case has been dismissed. “It speaks volumes about what Dr. Nagler and I have had to endure for the past year and a half. It’s a shame the community had to go through this.”
From the time they were accused, both Dr. Licopoli and Dr. Nagler maintained their innocence, denying the accusations. Dr. Licopoli said the outcome turned out the way he thought it would and feels the announcement that the lawsuit has been dropped reaffirms his and Dr. Nagler’s innocence.