STATE ED COMMISSIONER REJECTS APPEAL TO OVERTURN MAY 2014 NORTH SHORE BOE ELECTION ON PROCEDURE AND MERITS OF CLAIMS
May 5, 2015 -- In a five page ruling issued this past Thursday, April 30, Acting New York State Commissioner of Education Elizabeth Berlin rejected an appeal to invalidate the May 2014 North Shore School Board election results. The petition to overturn the vote in which more than 2,400 residents participated had been submitted by district resident Christine McDonough, and claimed that "that there were numerous irregularities, errors and improper conduct that were fundamentally unfair and so pervasive that they ultimately affected the outcome of the election." Among the allegations were that District resources had been improperly used to support current Trustee Joanna Commander's candidacy. Ms. McDonough requested that a new election be held or that Ms. Commander, who finished first in the balloting, be removed from the Board and that candidate Robert Mazzella, who finished third be awarded the position. Lara Gonzalez finished second, earning the other spot on the board.
The Commissioner dismissed the entire appeal on both procedural grounds and on the merits of the claims. She stated Ms. McDonough failed to serve the Board of Education, Ms. Commander, and Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick with a verified petition within 30 days of the election as is required by law; and that Ms. Gonzalez, who would have been adversely affected by a successful appeal, was not listed in the caption of the appeal, as is also required by law. It is unclear whether Ms. McDonough had received any legal counsel, as no attorney was listed on her petition.
"However, even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedual grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits," the Commissioner's decision continues, stating that Ms. McDonough did not prove her charges. "Mere speculation as to the effect of alleged irregularities provides an insufficient basis on which to annul election results," the decision reads.
The petitioner, the Commissioner concludes, “failed to meet her burden of proof and, thus, failed to establish any basis to overturn the results of the May 20, 2014 election.”
Information for this article was obtained from a press release issued by the North Shore School District on Tuesday, May 5, as well as from the Commissioner's written opinion which was received through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the district on the same day.
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