State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has rejected a petition to remove two Hamburg Central School Board members.
King determined that most of the issues raised by parent Daniel Chiacchia in his petition were not timely. A petition has to be filed within 30 days of the alleged misconduct for the state Department of Education to consider it timely.
Chiacchia sought the removal of Sally Stephenson, the board’s vice president, and her daughter, Holly Balaya, a board member.
But King addressed the dysfunction on the board, calling the “history of dissension and conflict” well-documented.
“The record before me illustrates all too well how conflict and an atmosphere of this nature can interfere with the board’s ability to govern the affairs of district and can undermine the public’s confidence in its elected school board,” King wrote. “I strongly urge respondents and the board to engage in constructive discussions - not only as a board, but also with district staff and the community - aimed at eliminating conflict and achieving the best possible governance of the school district.”
Chiacchia filed the petition Nov. 20, contending the two board members had conflicts of interest that were not disclosed in votes taken at the July 2, July 30 and Nov. 12 meetings.
King, in his decision issued Monday, said a violation of a board’s bylaws or policies, by itself, does not constitute sufficient grounds for removal of a member of a board of education.”
Margaret Murphy, the attorney for Stephenson and Balaya, said she was not surprised the petition was denied.
“When I first was given the petition, I thought it was frivolous on its face,” she said. “I’m glad they dismissed it sooner rather than later.”
Chiacchia contended Stephenson and Balaya had a conflict of interest they did not disclose before voting on providing legal representation for the former board president and superintendent.
But the commissioner said the conflict of interest would have to involve “a direct or indirect pecuniary or material benefit,” not merely a friendship or personal relationship with someone who is the subject of a resolution.
Chiacchia called King’s ruling disappointing.
“He had plenty of ammunition to do the right thing, and I feel it was a gutless decision,” Chiacchia said.
Still, Chiacchia said filing the petition accomplished a great deal.