Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Wednesday, 24 June 2009 12:06A special election for two vacant seats on the Westbury Board of Education was scheduled to take place on June 23 but, at press time Monday, the validity of two candidates was being challenged.
On June 19, Rocco Lanzilotta filed a Notice of Petition against the board and district superintendent Dr. Constance Clark-Snead requesting two of the candidates be removed from the ballot on the grounds that their candidacy is a violation of New York State Education Law.
Brinson and Pierce, who were both ordered to vacate their seats earlier this year after New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills overturned the 2008 board trustee vote due to “irregularities,” are seeking to regain their seats. Lanzilotta, however, who lost last year’s election by a mere 10 votes and brought forth and won the initial suit against the district that resulted in the need for the June 23 special election, is claiming that neither Brinson nor Pierce is eligible to run for the seats.
Lanzilotta is attributing his claim to New York State Education Law 2103-2, Ineligibility to Office, which states “a person removed from a school district office shall be ineligible to appointment of election to any district office for a period of one-year from the date of such removal.”
According to Lanzilotta, the commissioner’s March 26 decision to “legally remove” both Brinson and Pierce from the Westbury School Board is being “overlooked and ignored” by the district. “To have two candidates on the ballot who are legally ineligible, supports undeniably the active role the district has played in not running a fair and democratic election last year,” he said. “This is further proof of how the district overlooks and ignores the laws which govern our education system. It is the same old sad story, but only now it’s a year later. The taxpayers and residents of the Westbury School District deserve a fair and honest school board election.”
The Westbury School District believes the “Ineligibility to Office” claim bears no relevance as the candidates themselves were not removed for any wrongdoings but rather the election itself was annulled. “The commissioner’s ruling invalidated last year’s election based on the conduct on the election. That ruling made no finding of any wrongdoing on the part of Adelaide Brinson or Laura Pierce,” said district spokesperson Don Miller. “Both individuals filed timely nominating petitions with the district clerk to run as candidates in the special school board election on June 23 and were properly included on the ballot.”