Third petition filed against Central Islip school board members

School board president Fred Philips listens to questions School board president Fred Philips listens to questions on the upcoming school budget during a school board meeting in Central Islip on March 21, 2011. Photo Credit: John Dunn

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A Central Islip school board member has asked the state education commissioner to remove the school board president and three other board members for neglect of duties and violations of state laws, according to a petition filed with the state.

The petition is the third filed since December by board members looking to oust president Fred Philips.

Doris Dodson, 63, a board member since July 2012, said Philips, along with board members Daniel Devine, William Softy and Edna Carbajal, have been "fiscally irresponsible" because they allowed for the continuation of a decades-old district policy that gave noninstructional employees a paid day off that extended their winter holiday vacation.

Philips and the board members named in the petition could not be reached for comment, but their attorney, Thomas Volz, said they will be vindicated.

"Petitioner is asking the commissioner to remove these board members, not because they have done anything wrong, but because they have not voted the way she would like," Volz said. "The allegations are totally without merit and I fully expect the commissioner will dismiss this proceeding."

The "energy conservation day," which has been in the district since the 1970s and is subject to a board vote each year, was implemented as a cost-saving measure so the district does not have to pay to heat buildings for one day between Christmas and New Year's.

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The petition states that the cost to heat the building is around $4,000 per day, while a day of salaries and overtime for the 163 noninstructional employees is $53,196.62, a figure provided to the board by the district's business manager.

Philips, at a board meeting last November, said the move is "the cost of doing business in this matter," according to the petition. The petition also states that Softy warned at a board meeting that the union would be "angry" if the day was taken away.

In his response to the state, Philips wrote that the district would be required to pay the employees' salaries regardless of whether they reported to work.

Dodson's petition, received by the state Jan. 24, also lists complaints about inadequate and sometimes missing minutes of past meetings and states that some recordings of meetings are inaudible. Philips has also ordered board members to turn off their audio recorders, in violation of the state's Open Meetings Law, Dodson wrote.

Dodson said she hopes state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. will thoroughly review the "dysfunction" of the school board.

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