Familiar names appeared in this week's police report from the Port Washington Police Department. School Board President Richard Sussman and school board member John Zimmerman, who were at one time allies and now appear to be fierce enemies, have allegedly become physical with each other.
According to a police report dated May 7, Sussman called the PWPD to report that Zimmerman had assaulted him in the faculty cafeteria. Reportedly, Zimmerman's wife was serving Sussman with papers filed with Commissioner Mills' office to remove him (Sussman) from office. (Zimmerman noted that the law requires papers be served by a third party.)
Sussman alleges that Zimmerman punched him after he (Sussman) closed the door on his wife. Zimmerman alleges that Sussman slammed the door in his wife's face. Zimmerman also "absolutely denies" punching Sussman.
The police report states that there were no witnesses.
On the following night, at the executive session held after the regular BOE meeting, Zimmerman filed a harassment complaint with the PWPD against Sussman. Zimmerman alleges that he and Sussman got into an argument and Sussman pushed him over some chairs in the teacher's cafeteria.
When contacted by the Port News, school board president Richard Sussman said John Zimmerman was trying to remove him from the Board of Education. According to Sussman, Zimmerman's wife tried to serve him with papers to that effect on a Sunday, but failed. They tried again on Monday. After the May 8 school board meeting, the board went into executive session, and it was during this time, Sussman said, that Zimmerman began screaming at him, and pushing up against him. Sussman indicated that he had "put his arm up to push him away" when Zimmerman took a few steps backwards, then "dove down" to the floor, face down. He began calling for an ambulance and the police, Sussman stated. Sussman said there are five school board members who can corroborate his account. The board president then advised that he file his own police report "that John Zimmerman's was a phony report."
When reached for comment, Zimmerman told us that allegedly Sussman shoved his wife, who was carrying his 4-month old son at the time, out of the teacher's cafeteria as he slammed the door in her face.
To Sussman's claims that he assaulted him, Zimmerman responds, "I never touched him." Zimmerman contends that Sussman "put his hands on my chest and pushed me backwards."
The Port News attempted to reach all of the other school board members on Monday for comment on this situation. We were unable to reach some, however some responded.
Peter Wezenaar--- "My sole reason for being a board member is to help my community and its children. It saddens me when the board's focus is off the students and on us. In the world of litigation and allegations, it's difficult to speak to the specific incident mentioned in this article. Generally speaking, the newspapers and police are rarely the answer to resolve personal conflicts. If and when that occurs, the public is sued as a weapon to hurt your "opponent," and as may be expected the truth is very elusive and difficult to decipher."
Dean Nardone ... "It's a terrible day for our community when two school board members cannot amiably settle such trivial issues. In this year, when we are stressing the anti-bullying program and respect for others, for these board members to send this type of signal to our kids is outrageous. It's also so hard to understand because initially they seemed to be so in tune. It now makes me wonder whether they were really working for the good of the community and kids."
Alan Baer --- It is extremely unfortunate when decision making that concerns our children's education degenerates into physical violence and inappropriate and childish game playing.