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Kings Park schools trustee resigns amid investigation

Kings Park School District clerk Patti Capobianco, left,

Kings Park School District clerk Patti Capobianco, left, administers the oath of office to new Board of Education Vice President Liz Barrett. (July 10, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

Kings Park schools trustee Liz Barrett has officially resigned, amid complaints about her handling of confidential employment information and a fundraiser held on her behalf.

Barrett resigned "effective immediately" in a letter she gave Tuesday to the Kings Park school district clerk.

In the note, which she read to Newsday, she said it was an honor to serve Kings Park for more than three years, and added: "I had every intention of fulfilling my term, however, under the current climate, it is not beneficial for me to continue my service."

In a statement released Wednesday, school board members said a district employee informed a board member on Dec. 5 that Barrett had discussed his employment status in public.

After a special school board meeting on Monday to discuss the allegation, "Ms. Barrett indicated to the Board of Education that she was no longer willing to serve as a member of this board," the statement indicated. "We appreciate the work that she has provided to this community . . . and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors."

The board said the employee's allegation "had nothing to do" with a prior complaint the board was working to resolve involving a potential ethics violation related to the fundraiser.

In an interview, school board president Marie Goldstein said attorneys for the district plan to send her options on how to fill Barrett's seat. "I believe that it will be . . . a special election or an appointment," she said.

The board plans to discuss how to proceed at its Dec. 17 meeting, Goldstein said.

When asked about the resignation, Barrett said, "the distractions are counterproductive, and I believe the students deserve better."

In August, Kings Park resident Jim McGuire asked the board to investigate whether Barrett violated an ethics policy that prohibits board members from receiving gifts valued at $75 or more, after community members threw Barrett a fundraiser.

Some community members held a fundraiser this past spring to help pay for legal costs Barrett incurred after she fought off the board's attempt to remove her in 2012 for allegedly discussing her concerns about a student in conversations with a friend, in violation of state confidentiality laws.

In October 2012, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. ruled that the school board's petition to remove Barrett was invalid.

At the August 2013 board meeting, Barrett said she did not know how much was raised and had "no contact with any of the money raised . . . "

Barrett said her resignation "has nothing to do" with the ethics inquiry.

"Upon reflection, I see no reason to put my family through another difficult and expensive process," she said.

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