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Joshua Lafazan, 18, joins school board

After he's sworn in as a Syosset school board member, Joshua Lafazan discusses government transparency. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (July 2, 2012)

One of Syosset's newest school board members got off to a shaky start at his maiden meeting last night.

Joshua Lafazan, 18, who graduated from Syosset High School less than two weeks ago and was sworn in as a board member Monday, asked early on if he could explain publicly why he intended to abstain from most of the voting.

But newly elected board president Michael Cohen turned him down, instead speaking for the young man, saying Lafazan told him he would decline to vote because he didn't have enough time to look over the needed materials.

Cohen said that by law, Lafazan couldn't have viewed the materials -- which fill a 4-inch-thick binder -- until he took his oath Monday morning.

"Can the minutes please reflect that I was denied the floor?" he asked. Cohen said they would.

Lafazan sat silent as the board ticked through 48 resolutions before the crowd of about 50.

Later, resident Fred Gang, 70, told the board it must be more open. He said it should include more specific financial data in the meeting agenda so residents are aware of each expenditure. And forbidding an elected trustee to speak did not reflect the promised transparency, he said.

Lafazan was elected in May along with newcomer Christopher DiFilippo and incumbent Alan Resnick. His controversial candidacy and criticism of the administration divided the community.

During his campaign, the teen was openly questioning of Superintendent Carole Hankin, whose salary and benefits package of more than $500,000 makes her the highest compensated school chief on Long Island.

He had said he felt compelled to become a part of the board so that he could help bring spending under control, better address students' needs and make the district more transparent.

"My priority is to make sure every Syosset resident has access to the line-by-line budget and can share their ideas with the school board," he said Monday in an interview. "Right now, the district only offers the budget in general category groupings. Enough hiding. Let's get everything out in the open."

Lafazan's candidacy was controversial. District officials alerted residents through an automated phone call in May to tell them the candidate's father, Jeff, "ran away" with its only list of absentee voters. Jeff Lafazan said he simply left with what he thought was a copy of the list and wasn't chased by security as the district had said.

Robin Grossman, 48 of Jericho, told the board the robocall scared parents. "I thought to robocall was unwarranted and gave a multitude of parents a racing heart as they thought there was a real problem with their children at large," she said.

District officials declined to elaborate when her question was posed but said later they could not comment as the matter was under investigation.

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