The leader of the Bayport-Blue Point school board apologized Thursday for spending several hundred dollars on a welcome dinner for the new superintendent.
Before a special meeting to appoint Vincent Butera as the district's chief on Tuesday, about 40 board members and administrators dined in a private room at Blue, an upscale Blue Point restaurant.
When asked about the expenditure on Wednesday, board president James March said the dinner was a "dignified, professional and appropriate event," and that the district had done the same for incoming superintendents in years past, when board policy allowed those types of expenses.
But after residents complained that the district was unjustly spending taxpayer money and the media paid attention, the board sought legal counsel, district spokeswoman Deirdre Gilligan said.
"That's when they found out they were in violation," Gilligan said. "There was no intention of wrongdoing, it was a completely honest mistake."
At a fixed dinner cost of $24 per person, the district would have spent about $960 before tax and tip. But Trustee William Milligan paid for 10 meals, March said. Trustee Rebecca Campbell on Wednesday wrote a check for several dinners, bringing the district's portion of the bill to $411, officials said.
In a written statement, March apologized: "We were operating under the mistaken belief that our Board's modest discretionary funds could be utilized to cover recognitions of this nature. What we have come to learn is that this is not permissible under Board policy."
He said other board members have committed to covering the remainder of the bill, and that "No district funds were ever actually paid to the restaurant."