Application of RAMONA C. JONES, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of YO NNE JONES, ENOCH JONES, GENEVA JONES, and THESMOND JONES, infants; WILMA GLOVERKOOMSON, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of FREDERICK KOOMSON, infant; YOLANDA WHITE, individually; REBECCA MONTESA, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of EMILY WONG, infant, and as acting President of the EAST RAMAPO PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION; KIM FOSKEW, individually and as previous President of the EAST RAMAPO PARENT TEACHER ASSOCIATION; HIRAM RIVERA, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of AARON RIVERA, infant; LISA ROSS, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of DONAE ROSS, infant; NASIK ELAHI, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of ANISSA ELAHI, infant; BETTY CARMAND, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of JORDAN ELYSEE, infant; DONIQUE JOHNSON, individually, LANA RHEUBOTTOM, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of JASON RHEUBOTTOM, infant LILI GRADY, individually and as a parent and natural guardian of CAITLIN GRADY, infant; STEVEN WHITE, individually; and EMILIA WHITE, individually. Petitioners, Pursuant to Education Law §306 -againstDANIEL SCHWARTZ, President of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education; YEHUDA WEISSMANDL, Vice President of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education; MOSES FRIEDMAN, MOSHE HOPSTEIN, and ELIYAHU SOLOMON, Members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education, Respondents, JACOB LEFKOWITZ, YONAH ROTHMAN, SUZANNE YOUNG- MERCER, STEPHEN PRICE, Members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education Necessary Parties,


for the removal of DANIEL SCHWARTZ, MOSES FRIEDMAN, MOSHE HOPSTEIN, ELIYAHU SOLOMON, and YEHUDA WEISSMANDL from the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education, and other relief.




Ramona C. Jones and other parents of children who attend public schools in the East Ramapo Central School District ("ERCSD"), representatives of the ERCSD Parent Teacher

Association, and residents of East Ramapo, New York. Ms. Jones and et al. (collectively, "Petitioners") submit this Petition to apply for the removal of Daniel Schwartz, Moses Friedman, Moshe Hopstein, Eliyahu Solomon, and Yehuda Weissmandl from the Board of Education of ("ERCSD") and bar them from holding office in the future Petitioners further request that the Commissioner appoint an overseer to remedy rampant abuses of office within the ERCSD School Board, and prevent future abuses. Petitioners, by their undersigned counsel, as and for their petition allege as follows. THE PARTIES 1. Petitioners are: a. Ramona Jones, who is a parent of Yonnie Jones and Enoch Jones, who

attend Spring Valley High School and Geneva Jones and Thesmond Jones, who attend Elmwood Elementary SchooL b. Wilma Glover-Koomson, who is a parent of Frederick Koomson, who

attends Pomona Middle School.


c. d.

Yolanda White, is a taxpayer and resident of Rockland County. Rebecca Montesa, who is the current PTA President of East Ramapo

Central School District, and a parent of Emily Wong. e. Kim Foskew, who was former Council President of the East Ramapo

Central School District and former PTA President of the East Ramapo Central School District. f. Hiram Rivera, who is the President of Padres Unidos, and a parent of

Aaron River, who attends Kakiat Elementary School. g. Middle School. h. School.

Lisa Ross, who is a parent of Donae Ross, who attends Chestnut Ridge

Nasik Elahi, who is a parent of Anissa Elahi, who attends Ramapo High

Betty Carmand, who is a parent of Jordan Elysee, who attends Ramapo

High School. J. k. L m. Donique Johnson, who is a taxpayer and resident of Rockland County. Steven White, who is a taxpayer and resident of Rockland County. Emilia White, who is a taxpayer and resident of Rockland County. Lanamarie Rheubottom, who is a parent of Jason Rheubottom, who

attends Ramapo High School. n. Magnus High SchooL Lili Grady, who is a parent of Caitlin Grady, who attends Albertus


Respondents are:



Daniel Schwartz, was a member of the Board during some or all of the

period between 2008 to present and is currently on the Board. b. Yehuda Weissmandl, was a member of the Board during some or all of the

period between 2008 to present and is currently on the Board. c. Moses Friedman, was a member of the Board during some or all of the

period between 2008 to present and is currently on the Board. d. Moshe Hopstein, was a member of the Board during some or all of the

period between 2008 to present and is currently on the Board. e. Eliyahu Solomon, was a member of the Board during some or all of the

period between 2008 to present and is currently to the Board. 3. Repeatedly, over the last 24 months, Respondents, in their capacity as School

Board members have acted in a manner, which warrants removal.




Respondents abused their discretion b)"hastily: approving the sale of Hillcrest and us~d fraudulent appraisals
4. On April 19,2010, a majority of the Board consisting of Respondents Hopstein

and Solomon, and then-members Kohn, Rothschild and Wieder I voted to close Hillcrest Elementary School ("Hillcrest"), deem its building and grounds surplus property, and appraise the property in contemplation of selling or leasing it? 5. Board members Price and Young-Mercer, who are not individual respondents'

and then-member Calhoun voted against this motion.4


Ex. 1, at 6519 Appeal of White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239, at I are not individually named as respondents for removal; they were against many of the

2 3

Price and Young-Mercer Board decisions



This appraisal was received in May 2010 (hereinafter referred to as the "May

appraisal"), and it valued the Hillcrest building at $5.9 million.' 7. At a meeting on June 8, 2010, the Board, including Respondents Hopstein and

Solomon, authorized the Superintendent of ERCSD to issue a request for proposals ("RFP") for the sale or lease of the Hillcrest building.6 8. An RFP was issued on June 16, 2010 and advertised only in a local newspaper,

the Journal News, and the district's website. Commissioner John King, Jr. ("The Commissioner") later described these methods as "restrictive," and the board provided no explanation for its acnon.' 9. The Board received three bids for Hillcrest, for $1.65 million, $4.6 million, and

$3.1 million. The latter bid came from the Congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov ('Congregation'). 10. The Board authorized its attorney, Albert D'Agostino, to obtain a second appraisal

("second appraisal") "in view of the discrepancy between the range of bids and the first appraisal". 11. million. 12. 13. On July 28, 2010, the Board accepted the Congregation's bid. Board Member Young-Mercer voted against the sale of Hillcrest to Congregation

The second appraisal was received on July 26, 2010. Hillcrest was valued at $3.24

on July 28, 2010.


Ex. I, supra


7 8

Appeal of White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239, at 6

Board Meeting Minutes, July 28, 2010, ERCSD Website, bXRnLWlpbnVOZXMucGRmOjo6L3d3dy9zY2hvb2xzL3NjL3JlbW90ZS9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzE5NzJma WxlOTEINS5wZGY= (last visited July 12,2012)



Steven White, a parent in the East Ramapo Central School District ("District")

filed an appeal with the NY State Education Department to stop the sale of Hillcrest to the Congregation August 7, 2010.9 15. Hillcrest's value "was estimated by the Town of Clarkstown assessor at $11

million.t''" but the sale was accepted at a price of $3.1 million. 16.

The Board provided two appraisals in response to appeal. "The first ... by

Valuation Plus, Inc of Mamaroneck NY, for $5.9 million, was done before receiving bids. The second ... by Appraisal Group International of Parsippany NJ, for $3.2 million was done after the bids were opened". [2 17. The Commissioner acted on August 31, 2010, to grant "petitioner's request for

interim relief prohibiting the sale of Hillcrest pending a final decision in this appeal"." 18. With permission from the NYSED, on October 20, 2010, the Board voted to lease

Hillcrest to Congregation, while the petition was pending. 19.

On June 6, 2011, the Commissioner decided White's appeal. The Commissioner

held that "it is well settled that when selling real property, a board of education has a fiduciary duty to secure the best price obtainable in the board's judgment for any lawful use of the premises (internal citations omitted). Unless a particular method of sale is prescribed by law, a board of education has broad discretion to determine the best price for which a property can be sold, to condition the sale on such terms, as in the board's judgment, will yield the maximum financial benefit for the district, and to determine the best method of sale to be utilized in a

Ex. 2 Ex. 3; See also Ex. 2 Ex. 2 Ex. 3 Appeal a/White, Ex. 4 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239 (June 6, 20 II), at I

10 11
12 13



particular case (internal citations omitted). However, a board of education may not act arbitrarily, and it must exercise its judgment and discretion in good faith (internal citations omitted). This includes taking reasonable steps to ascertain the value of a property andlor to utilize a method of sale, which is apt to bring in the best price (internal citations omitted). If a board of education abuses its discretion or acts in an arbitrary or capricious manner with respect to the sale of a piece of property, the sale may be set aside (see, Yeshiva of Spring yalley, Inc. v. Bd. of Educ. of the E~st Ramapo Cent. School Dist., et al., 132 AD2d 27)".15 20. The Commissioner was "unable to find that the board adequately assessed the

bids against the first appraisal prior to determining that the second appraisal was required ...[or] conclude that the board adequately assessed the probative value of the second appraisal" 21. The Commissioner ruled that the Board "abused its discretion by hastily

approving the sale of Hillcrest to the Congregation and that such sale must be set aside") 7 and directed the Board to "take reasonable steps, consistent with this decision, to secure the best price obtainable for Hillcrest" for sales in the future. 22.

On November 25,2010, Steven White wrote to the Attorney General to allege "a

case of appraisal fraud ... as part of a scheme to give away public property ... at below market value".


After White's initial appeal, he discovered that the second appraisal was

fraudulent in that it represented a "comparable sale" of a school that "never occurred" and White

15 Appeal 16


White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239 (June 6, 20 11), at 5

Appeal a/White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239 Appeal a/White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239 Ex. 3

17/d. at 8
18 19


included this in his Reply to the Board's Answer/" It is unclear whether or not the Commissioner of Education was able to consider this information because as stated in the Commissioner's decision, "while I have reviewed the reply, I have not considered those portions

containing new allegations or Exhibits that are not responsive to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer." However the Commissioner does indicate that records indicating that a prior sale "relied upon as 'comparable' may have been for the sale ofland only and not, as the second appraisal indicates, the sale of land improved with a building" is "another potential problem" in footnote 7?1 24. White alleged in his appeal and reply that the school board ("Board"),s trustees

"solicited the fraudulent appraisal to support the below market sale price" and that the appraiser "used a completely fictitious comparison in order to state the value he had been asked to provide." This action by the Board was clearly motivated by a desire to "make a gift to their friends and supporters of public property. ,,22 25. The second appraisal, "Comparable Sale #2,,23, references Document Number

27785. The appraisal describes the property as a three story building with a site size ofO.77± Acres and a sale price of $1 ,900,000. 26. Only".24 27. This is not a "comparable sale" and amounts to appraisal fraud as the appraisal The records of the Town of Ramapo for documents 27785 indicate "Land

specifically indicates a building on the property.

20 21 22 23

Ex. 3; See also, Ex. 5 Appeal of White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239 !d. Ex. 6 Ex. 5



As of June 2012, the New York State Attorney General subpoenaed the East

Ramapo School District for documents relating to attempted sales and leases of Hillcrest Elementary School and Colton Elementary School.i" 29. Although the Commissioner of Education invalidated the board's decision to sell

Hillcrest to Congregation, the board again voted to lease Hillcrest to Congregation on August 29, 2011 for one year.26 The lease provides "for a right of first refusal to purchase the property and with options to extend the lease for four (4) successive one (1) year te1ms.,,27


Respondents failed their fiduciary duty by attempting to sell Colton Elementary School fo_r__bel~w market price, and by failure to enforce the terms of the existing lease.
30. On April 4, 2009 the Board decided to lease Colton Elementary School28 and on

April 22, 2009 decided to engage the services of an appraiser, Valuation Plus.29 Approximately two weeks later, the Board accepted a bid from the Hebrew Academy for Special Children, Inc. ("BASC") and Congregation Bais Malka ("Bais Malka,,).3o The Board approved the Lease Agreement and Rider with Bais Malka and HASC to lease the Colton Elementary School on July 15,2009.31 31. The lease of The Colton Elementary School to the HASC and Bais MaIka is for

five years, from August 1, 2009 through July 31,2014.32

25 A.C_ probes E. Ramapo deal,, http.z/ 120609iNEWS03/306090057/A-Gprobes-E-Ramapo-deal (last visited July 11,2012) and Attorney General Investigating East Ramapo Sale of Schools , Preserve Ramapo, (last visited July 11,2012).


Ex. 7, at 6868. Ex. 8 Ex. 9 Ex. 10 Ex. 1, at 1

27Id. 28

29Id. 30




Upon information and belief, the last lease payment by Bais Malka was on or

about November 1,2011.33 Partial payments have been repeatedly made for the monthly lease payments and payments made have been late. 34 33. Upon information and belief, as March 1,2012, $85,360.24 is due to the district

from Bais Malka.35 34. In addition, the Invoices sent and the ERCSD Invoice/Credit Memo History, do

not reflect a three percent increase as required pursuant to the Rider to the Lease.i'' 35. The Board voted on May 25, 2011 to sell Colton to Bais Malka and HASe for

$6.6 million." No RFP had been issued, but the parties signed a Contract of Sale.38 The Contract of Sale is conditioned on the Seller's right to issue a request for proposals ("RFP") to offer the property for sale to the general public.i" 36. Board Members Young-Mercer and Price voted against the sale of Colton to

HASC and Bais MaIka on May 25,2011.40 37. After the decision to sell, an RFP was issued on June I, 2011, "in order to try to

solicit higher bids," and bids were to be opened on July 27, 2011.41


Ex. 12; Although there are copies of checks from Bais Malka to ERCSD, including two partial lease payments dated 12114/2011 and 1/27/2012, these have not been included in the Invoice/Credit History (see Ex. 12). 34 Ex. 12
35 36

Ex. 12

Ex. 13 Lease Rider, at 7 para 20 ("Late charges of3% of the unpaid rent shall be added to the rent for rental payments that are made after the 30th day of the month.); See also, Ex. 40 Lease Rider, at 6 (monthly rent payments to be $63,235.63).
37 38 39

Ex. 14, at 6802. Ex. 15 Ex. 15, at 6

40 Board Meeting Minutes, July 28,2010, ERCSD Website, bXRnLWI pbnVOZXMucGRmOj06L3d3dy9zY2hvb2xzL3NjL3JlbW90ZS9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzE5NzJma WxlOTEINS5wZGY= (last visited July 12,2012) 41 Ex. 16



Colton Elementary School would be sold subject to the existing lease and upon

information and belief, a prospective bidder would not know about the late payments of the current tenants, HASC and Bais MaIka, because the Board has hidden this fact. 39. However, the interim Superintendent, Joel Klein, was quoted in the Journal News

on May 27, 2011 that Colton would be sold at the assessed price of $6.6 million dollars to Bais MaIka and HASC.42 40. The Town of Ramapo Real Property Assessment lists Colton's Market Value as

$11,966,758 as of July 1,2010.,,43 41. request." 42. Anderson filed a petition to appeal the decision to sell Colton on June 17, 2011. On June 6, 2011, the Board refused to release any appraisals despite a FOIL

The Appeal of Anderson is still pending as of July 10, 2012. Anderson made the claim, among others, that MaIka and HASC "have not made timely lease payments. The board has hidden this fact from any prospective bidder who would have Bais MaIka & HASC as tenants, that they could in the future not make their monthly lease obligations and default on the lease"." 43. Although the Commissioner of Education decided Appeal of White on June 6,

20 11, after the Board began the process of selling and or leasing Colton in which, the Commissioner explicated basic fiduciary principles in selling public school property, the Board again failed in taking reasonable steps to determine the best price for the property. 44. Upon information and belief, two appraisals have been conducted for Colton, one

included an appraisal by Valuation Plus, Inc. Valuation Plus has appraised another school
Ex. 17; Ex. 18, at 2-3 Ex. 18, para 7 Ex. 19 Ex. 18, at 4

42 43



property, Hillcrest, which sale was stopped subsequent to a Petition. Valuation Plus identified a reasonable marketing time to be 9-18 months. Here, the Board signed a Contract for Sale before an RFP was issued and the marketing time was for only 8 weeks. 45. Eight weeks does not expose the property to a reasonable marketing time to get

the best price for Colton. The value shown by the appraisals were not properly taken into consideration by the board members.46 46. A public statement by the Superintendent, Joel Klein, that Colton would be sold

to Bais Malka and HASC confuses potential bidders and sends a message ... 47. Any defense that an expedited sale was desirable because the sale would provide When Hillcrest

needed funds in a time when there were significant budget cuts is disingenuous. was put to sale, the District was in a time of budget cuts as well. 48.

Preferential treatment has been given to HASC and Bais Malka by accepting lease

payments without enforcing provisions of the lease agreement in regards to late or missing lease payments or an increase in rent. This practice also belies any defense that the sale would provide needed funds during a time of significant budget cuts. 49. In addition, upon information and belief, "the Board has given Right of First

Refusal to both Bais Malka and HASC in regards to the saie,,,47 contradicting the lease agreement providing Right of First Refusal solely to Bais MaIka.411 50. process.
,,4 9

The Contract for Sale "gives ... preferences and an unfair advantage in the bidding

46 47 48 49

Ex. 18, at 3 Ex. 18, para 31 Ex. 11, para 33 Ex. 18, at 9



Credits in the Rider to the Contract include $36,000 for "repair and

replacement of the electrical system,',50 a $100,000 maximum for "replacement of the Asphalt areas,,,51 $250,000 for any necessary remediation for the removal as asbestos,52 and an undetermined amount (as of June 17,2011) for the "granting of a resolution of subdivision by the Planning Board of the Incorporated Village of New Hempstead, which subdivision application shall be submitted and processed in diligent fashion by and at the sole cost and expense of the Seller. ,,53 b. The infrastructure and/or facilities have been improved with expenditures

of $881,437 since 2001.54 c. Handwritten notes in the contract which state that the Board "will give

credit of rent payments (from July 1, 2011) forward towards purchase price as soon as the contract becomes unconditional until the closing date. This credit is not in the initial lease contract," and amounts to an interest free loan to HASC and Bais MaIka.55


Respondents are in willful noncom_pliance with Special Education Rules causing loss of funds.
51. In April 2010, staff from the New York State Education Department's (NYSED)

Office of Special Education, Hudson Valley Regional Office of Special Education Quality Assurance (SEQA) conducted a monitoring review "to ensure that the East Ramapo Central

50 51 52 53 54 55

Ex. 13, at 2 Jd. ld. at 3 Ex. 15, at 13 Ex. 20 Ex. 18, at 7; Ex. 18 (handwritten notes)


School District


policies, procedures and practices regarding placement of students with

disabilities were consistent with the requirements of federal and State laws and regulations't.i'' 52. The review was administered by examining district records including individual

records of students with disabilities and by conducting interviews with the district's central office administration and special education staff. At the conclusion of the review NYSED found, in 13 of27 student records examined, that the present levels of performance statements in the students' individual education program (IEP) lacked specificity and/or lacked information on how the disability affected involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, as required in section 200A( d)(2)(i) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.Y In addition, the written notice provided to parents regarding eSE/IEP recommendations lacked the required components mandated in section 200.5(a)(3) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. 53. Additionally, where the IEP had been amended without a CSE meeting, prior

written notice ofthe changes was not provided to parents as mandated in section 200A (g)(l) and 200.5(a) of the regulations of the Commissioner of Education.Y 54. Additionally, private school placement files lacked sufficient documentation

required when seeking State reimbursement, pursuant to section 200.6G)(1)(iii) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. These placement files specifically lacked documented efforts to place students in public facilities and to enable them to benefit from public instruction in less restrictive settings using special education services. The placement files also

56 57 58

Ex. 21, at 1 Jd. Ex. 21, at 2


did not demonstrate the students' lack of progress in previously less restrictive public programs warranting the need for placement in a private school. 55. Given the aforementioned inadequacies, NYSED determined that the district

engaged in a practice of placing students with disabilities in private schools when appropriate placements were available in public facilities. As such, the district was held to be non-compliant with the following sections of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education: section 200.4(d)(2)(i), section 200.5(a)(3) and section 200.6(j)(1)(iii). 56. included: a. adoption of Compliance Assurance Plan which addressed each of the nonGiven these findings, NYSED mandated that specific actions be taken which

compliance issues, and which included a timeline that the non- compliance issues must be resolved.59 b. utilization of technical assistance and professional development to but

assist Board of Education members, CSE members and special education staff to address the identified areas of non-compliance.60 c. taking actions to address the lack of adequate documentation to support

the need for placing students with disabilities in private schools when appropriate placements were available in public facilities.

NYSED mandated that the CSE must evaluate and revise the

placement recommendations of the students placed in private schools that lacked the proper least restrictive environment documentation, and


Ex. 21, at 6




NYSED stated they would no longer accept electronic applications

from ERCSD for State reimbursement pursuant to Education Law § 4405 for a student in an instate or out-of-state private school from East Ramapo." 57. On February 28th and 29th, 2012 SEQA staff conducted a subsequent onsite-

follow up monitoring review of the East Ramapo School District to determine if the practices identified during the April 2010 special education monitoring review had been successfully changed. 58. After examination of both private and public student records, a continued lack of

adequate documentation was found. According to NY Education Law § 306(2), "[The] commissioner of education may also withhold from any district or city its share of the public money of the state for willfully disobeying any provision of law or any decision, order or regulation as aforesaid." NYSED determined that the District had failed to implement the recommended practices to place students with disabilities in public facilities as required in section 200.60)(1) of the Part 200 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. 59. As a result, NYSED withheld reimbursement from the District for the cost of the

placement of students in approved private schools during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, causing a loss to the District's budget. NYSED will continue to withhold funds if the District refuses to comply with NYSED recommendations.P' 60. For the 2010-11 school year, the District placed 77 students with disabilities in

private schools. 54 of these applications were submitted for State reimbursement and only 10% were approved. 38 did not contain the required documentation, and 6 were denied due to lack of justification for the approved private school placement. And for the 2011-12 school year, the
Ex. 21, at 3 Ex. 22




District placed 73 students with disabilities in private schools. 50 of these applications were submitted for State reimbursement; 31 were approved and 19 denied, again due to lack of justification for the approved private school placement"


Respondents hired, in breach .of their fiduciary duty, Albert Attor~ D' Agostino in 2009, an attorl!!!: with a reputation for helping place special education stud~nts in private schoo_Lplacements, for .~ouble the cost of the district's prior attorney.
61. Until late 2009, the school attorney for ERCSD was Stephen Fromson of the firm

of Greenberg, Wanderman & Fromson. 62. Upon information and belief, for his services as school attorney, Mr. Fromson

charged ERCSD $120 per hour. 63. On November 18,2009, a motion was made by then-Board-member Aron Wieder

to replace Mr. Fromson with Attorney Albert D'Agostino, Esq. of the firm of Minerva &


Attorney D'Agostino had previously gained a reputation for representing the

Board of Education of the Lawrence Union Free School District, a Board, which, like the Board of ERCSD, was made up of a majority of Orthodox Jews whose children attended private yeshivas.f 65. While serving as counsel to the Lawrence Board, Attorney D'Agostino devised a

novel way to use public money to fund special education in private religious schools." 66. Evidently, the motion to appoint Attorney D'Agostino was sudden and

unexpected. The subject of changing school attorneys was never put on the Board's agenda prior
63 64 65

Ex. 22 Ex. 23

Peter Appleboom, Board's Hiring Sets Off a School War, The New York Times, December 6, 2009, http://www.nytimes,comJ20091l2J07Jnyregion/07towns.html (last visited July J 3, 2012). 66 See Id.


to the November 18 meeting, nor was any special meeting called in advance to discuss the matter.67 67. Some members of the Board were never informed that Minerva & D'Agostino had

submitted a proposal for services to the Board, as they had to be informed of the name of the firm and the contents of the proposal at the November 18 rneeting.f 68. Attorney D'Agostino proposed to serve as school attorney in exchange for a

$40,000 per year retainer, billing for services at a rate of $250 per hour, and billing for travel at a rate of $125 per hour. 69. Attorney D'Agostino's office is in Valley Stream, Nassau County, while the

Administration offices ofERCSD are located in Spring Valley, Rockland County. Travel between the two locations takes more than one hour each way. In other words, any services Attorney D'Agostino performed would cost more than double what Mr. Fromson charged, and if Attorney D'Agostino had to be present for any Board business, the Board agreed to pay him over $250, simply to travel to the meeting. 70. The reasons for appointing Attorney D'Agostino to the position of school attorney

were discussed secretly in Executive Session over the objections of Board members Price and Young-Mercer and then-Board-member Calboun/" Respondents Hopstein, Kohn, and Solomon

voted to convene into Executive Session at this time and were present at the three-hour Executive Session.i" 71. Upon the Board's return to Open Session, Respondents Hopstein, Kohn, and Wieder and Stone, again over the objections of Members

Solomon with then-Board-members
Ex. 23, at 6416 See Id. Ex. 23, at 6416 See Id.

67 68 69 70


Price and Young-Mercer and then-member Calhoun, voted to retain Attorney D'Agostino as school attorney." 72. The Board members who were aware of Minerva & Attorney D'Agostinos

proposal for services did not request or receive proposals from any other attorneys or law firms at the time they made their initial decision to retain Attorney D'Agostino as school attorney.f 73. Soon after Attorney D'Agostino was appointed as school attorney, an appeal to

the Commissioner was filed, challenging the appointment. At a special meeting on December 1, 2009, the Board voted to hire the finn of Kuntz, Spagnuolo & Murphy to represent the Board in the appeal. 73 74. At its regular meeting on December 2, 2009, members of the public were

permitted to address the Board regarding Attorney D'Agostino's appointment. Eight parents and four students spoke in opposition to the move to appoint Attorney D'Agostino, compared with only one parent speaking in favor of the move." 75. During this meeting, an altercation between Attorney D'Agostino and a parent

was caught on video. The video is available for viewing at When this parent criticized Attorney D'Agostino

for charging too high a fee and for his "checkered past," Attorney D'Agostino became intemperate and stated, "I am putting this gentleman on notice,,,7S,,you will be the subject of a lawsuit.t'" and "You want to speak to me outside?".77 Attorney D'Agostino then approached the

71 72 73 74 75 76 77

Ex. 23, at 6417 Appeal of White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,239; Ex. 30 Ex. 24, at 6419. Ex. 25, at 6422. See Jd. at 1:20. See Jd. at 1:28.
SeeJd. at 1:37.


parent and can be seen on the video yelling inaudible remarks at the parent and making aggressive hand gestures78 until he is physically led away from the parent by a security officia1.79 76. At this meeting, the Board voted to put Attorney D'Agostinos appointment "on

hold" until the resolution of the appeal of the appointment.f" 77. As noted by the Commissioner in Appeal of White, (the Board issued a request

for proposals for the position of school attorney on January 8, 2010. On February 1 and 2,2010, the Board met in executive session to review the 11 proposals it received'" and to interview candidates for the position of school attorney.V 78. On February 3, 2010, a majority of the Board (Hopstein, Kohn, Stone, and

Weider) again voted to retain Attorney D'Agostino as school attorney, despite increase in cost, despite the altercation in December, and over the objection of members Price, Young-Mercer, Calhoun and Rothschild.83 79. In sum, when the decision was made to appoint Attorney D'Agostino, no

explanation was offered as to the reason for switching school attorneys. Some members of the Board were never informed of the fact that their fellow members had been negotiating with Attorney D'Agostino to provide legal services to the Board. Those Board members who were informed, including Respondents Hopstein, Kohn, and Solomon, sought Attorney D'Agostino out specifically, and did not request bids from any other attorneys. Despite Attorney D'Agostino's higher price; the resounding community opposition to his appointment; the apparent lack ofa need for a new school attorney; and Attorney D'Agostino's shocking display
78 79 80 81 82 83

See ld. at 2:15 See ld. at 2:22. Ex. 25, at 6425. Ex. 26, at 6455. Ex. 27, at 6457. Ex. 28, at 6461


of intemperance in the face of criticism that occurred right before the Board's eyes; Respondents Hopstein, Kohn, and Solomon (along with others no longer on the Board) voted to appoint him as school attorney. 80. During Attorney D'Agostino's tenure at East Ramapo, the Board has been

increasingly "settling" challenges to CSE placements by allowing Hasidic children to be placed in private yeshivas at public expense, even though public facilities would appropriately satisfy their needs." 81. The hiring of Attorney D'Agostino was an act to further of a plan by Respondents

Hopstein and Solomon, to provide benefits to private religious schools at public expense. Respondents Hopstein and Solomon approved the appointment of Attorney D'Agostino solely because they believed that, because of his prior record of representing Orthodox Jewish communities in controversial land deals and special education proceedings, he would be complicit in a scheme to send Hasidic children requiring special education to yeshivas at public expense, under the guise of a special education settlement, despite a lack of proof that public resources were unavailable. Attorney D'Agostino has been, in fact, complicit in such a scheme. The act of hiring Attorney D'Agostino thus evinces an intent to violate the law.


Respondents failed their fidJB~iary obligation to provide the "best possible governance", by failing to pr~HB~.:rlY track accounts receivable, lack of procurement control, and in their 4istribution of textbooks.
82. The Office of the New York State Comptroller conducted an audit of the ERSCD

pursuant to Article V, Section 1 of the State Constitution, and the State Comptroller's authority

Upon information and belief, the amount of special education settlements increased over four-fold from 20072009 years to the present. See, ERCSD Board of Education Meeting Minutesfrom 2007-20/2, ERCSD Website, ( It.php?sectiondetai Iid=3 8228&catfi Iter=217 6#sho wDoc (last visited July 12,20]2).


as set forth in Article 3 of the General Municipal Law. The audit period of examination was from July 1,2008 through April 13, 2010 and the findings are contained in See Exhibit 30, East Ramapo Central School District, Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Activities, Report of Examinati on. 83.

In many instances the Comptroller was unable to obtain requested information

due to the District's failure to implement their own policies, failure to employ appropriate practice, and unresponsiveness. 84. The Comptroller confirmed that "the Board and District officials failed to adopt

and enforce policies and procedures required by sound business practices and, most importantly, failed to set a good example for District employees to follow."s5 85. The Comptroller found three areas of concern: health insurance premium

reimbursement, procurement, and textbook depository. 86. Among other issues, the Board failed to establish a procedure governing health

insurance payments resulting in a period of improper enrichment of Board members with knowledge of such impropriety. a. Participants in the District's health insurance plan must "pay their portion

of their monthly insurance premiums to the District one month in advance.T'" "The District then pays the insurance carriers on behalf of the Board members using the moneys collected.,,87 There is no provision for payments by the District for non-paying Board members. b.

In addition to a very informal process for all participants regarding

reimbursements, the District staff did not apply the same "procedures" to Board members as they

85 86 87

Ex. 30, at 8. Ex. 30, at 8 Ex. 30, at 8


did to the other health insurance plan participants. The "process" for participants other than Board members consisted of issuing late notices that included the date their insurance would eventually be terminated and subsequently canceling insurance after two to three months of nonpayment (a period during which the District paid the premiums). However, of the 40 late notices sent to three Board members, none included termination dates and no member's insurance was terminated after three months of non-payment. c. The Director ofI-Iuman Resources had knowledge of these occurrences

and, upon information and belief, at Respondents' direction, directed the benefits clerk not to include specific termination language that was standard for all other participants.i" d. The Director of Human Resources was aware of this scheme since May

2009 and had informed the Superintendent. Allegedly, the Superintendent reached out to the Board members to resolve the situation; however, nothing came out of these efforts.89 e. The Comptroller investigated payments owed by the Board President and

the President's response that he had other coverage; however, the "[d]istrict officials were unable to provide [the Comptroller] with the Board President's original health insurance policy with the second provider to substantiate his claim.9o f. Although the District has since obtained all health insurance premiums

owed, their past failure to reimburse the District was found by the Comptroller as an "indication of impropriety and improper enrichment at taxpayers' expense."

88 89 90

Ex. 30, at 9 Jd. Ex. 30, at 10. Ex. 31, at 3; Ex. 30, at 10.



The Board lacks professional contracts and failure to obtain professional services

with the "best interest of the taxpayers, in the most prudent and economical manner, and without favoritism.


In addition to health insurance premium reimbursement, the Comptroller

addressed the District's procurement of services. The District, per protocol, maintains a procurement policy, yet does not utilize it, instead it repeatedly by fails to enter into written agreements for professional services." This does not ensure the District and taxpayers that District hired professionals are being fairly compensated for services rendered. Two professionals did not have a written agreement indicating "the services to be provided or the basis for compensation", yet the District paid them $495,023.94 The District sought, after the comptroller's review, to excuse their failure to enter into these agreements by noting that the Comptroller did not find that these "professionals did not perform the services for which they were paid or that the payments they received were somehow improper.?" written agreement should be to ensure payments are not improper. b. Even when the District had a written agreement with a professional (an The purpose for such a

exterminator), the Comptroller deemed the $10,289 payment to be inconsistent with the agreement detailing an hourly rate for services because the payment was based on a flat rate.96 c. In addition to the failure of ensuring adequate services and payments by

entering into written agreements with professional service providers, as required, the Comptroller found "that the District did not use competition to procure professional services by

92 93 94 95

Ex, 30 Ex, 30, at 11 Ex. 30, at 11 Ex. 30, at 5

Ex. 30, at 11-12.


soliciting proposals via Requests for Proposals or written quotations for professionals"."


Comptroller noted the importance of "assur[ing] taxpayers that they are obtaining services in the best interest ofthe taxpayers, in the most prudent and economical manner, and without favoritism.T" (Emphasis added). d. Although the District acknowledges that professional services must "be

procured in a manner so as to ensure the prudent and economical use of public monies in the best interests of the taxpayers," the District continues to maintain the services of Attorney Albert D'Agostino at two times the fees of the Board's previous counsel." 88. The Board lacks essential procedures for ensuring textbooks are accounted for

and appropriately distributed. a. The Comptroller was unable to conduct a full and thorough audit due to

the unavailability of textbook inventory records from nonpublic schools, despite the fact that the District maintains a policy, Board Policy No. 1740,100 that requires a nonpublic school to maintain an inventory of textbooks on loan from the District.

As a result, these requested

records were never provided to the Comptroller. "District officials allowed this to happen because they failed to enter into written agreements to compel the nonpublic administrators to provide the records."
1 02

97 98 99

Ex. 30, at 12 Ex. 30, at 12

Ex. 30, at 5 (citing Board Policy No. 6700-R). 100 Ex. 32
101 102

Ex. 31, at 6; Ex. 32 Ex. 30, at 13



Mismanagement has led to the inequitable distribution of textbooks. Upon

information and belief, various public schools do not receive the proper allocation of textbooks.


According to the Plan of Corrective Action, the Board outlined various

policies that would be implemented in this area. To date, these textbook policies have not been implemented.


Respondents ._unlawfully used state money to purchase religious textbooks.
89. Education Law requires that the Board of Education ofa school district purchase

and loan out books to both public and nonpublic schools equally for students in kindergarten through grade 12. The New York State comptroller estimated in an audit that East Ramapo School District spent $3.4 million dollars on textbooks and workbooks between July 2008- April 2010.105 a. In the Plan of Corrective Action created in response to the Comptroller's

audit report, Superintendent Klein of the ERCSD stated that the amount of books going to nonpublic schools was approximately 84,000 textbooks and workbooks annually for approximately 18,000 students. Mr. Klein, at a Board meeting in September 2011, supported the claim made in the Comptroller's audit that the board of education should be keeping records of the books loaned to nonpublic schooL The district responded to the audit claiming they, " ... maintain[] a comprehensive database of all textbooks purchased and loaned to nonpublic schools. When the District receives textbook requests, the District uses this database to compare

lQ3 East Ramapo Principal Pat Simmons, You Tube, __ 5Zmnsg&feature=relmfu 701(4)

(last visited July 12,2012); N.Y. Educ. Law s


Infra para 122 Ex. 30, at 13.


the requests against what is already in each school's inventory, thereby maintaining proper controls over any additional purchases". 106Despite their claims of proper inventory, these policies were not enough to maintain a check on the purchase of non-secular textbooks. 90. The East Ramapo Central School District has ordered non-secular books that

reflect or teach traditional values and stories rooted in the Jewish Faith. See Exhibits 34, 33, and 44 are purchase orders for textbooks and workbooks for the East Ramapo Central School District. Each purchase order contains titles in violation of State Education Law. a. In purchase order FP 11-05351, dated 6116/2011, The East Ramapo Central

School District paid $3099.19 to Merkaz, Haseforim & Judaica for 102 different books.

All of the books listed on the purchase order have incomplete or

inaccurate ISBN numbers.

Titles of the books ordered include: 1. The Embroidered Veil, a story described as heightening the reader's understanding and feeling for Judaism.107 2. 5 Great Lives, an examination of Rabbis Moshe Reinstein, Yaakov Kamenetsky, Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky (the Steipler Gaon), Shlomo Zalrnan Auerbach. and Yehudah Zev Segal. The text is a suite of "carefully chosen anecdotes -- culled from interviews and a host of research" designed to "present their subjects as teachers, guides, and role models, aside from their greatness in Torah." 108 3. Why Weren 't You Zisha and Other Stories- an illustrated book about "some of the great Chassidic masters ... the Baal Shem Tov, the Rebbe Reb Zisha, and Reb Pinchas of Koretz.,,109 4. Hamalach HaGoel- full title HaMalach HaGoel and Other Bedtime Stories, described by the publisher's website as "a

106 107 108 109

Ex. 31, at 7. Ex. 33 5 Great Lives,, (last visited July 11,2012). (last

Why Weren 't You Zisha and Other Stories,, visited July 11,2012).


book of timeless tales with Torah messages". 110 The Hebrew phrase in the title is derived from a traditional children's prayer, itself taken from Genesis 48:16. 5. Let My Nation Go- a story about the Pesach miracle from slavery in Egypt. 6. Let My Nation Live- full title Let My Nation Live: The story of the Jewish Deliverance in the Days of Mordechai And Esther. 7. 1 Keep Kosher- a children's book about the rules of keeping kosher. 8. Let's Go to Shull- an illustrated book meant to augment "appreciation for the laws of the synagogue."lll 9. Reb Moshe: the Life and Ideals of Hagaon, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein- Feinstein was an internationally renowned Orthodox rabbi and a widely considered authority on Jewish law. 10.5 Great Leaders- full title 5 Great Leaders: R Chaim Ozer Zensky, R Meir Shapiro, R Yose.fChaim Sonnenfeld, R Eichonon Wasserman, The Chazon ish by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman b. In purchase order BD12-02199, dated 8/5/2011, The East Ramapo Central

School District paid $3,217.00 to Merkaz Jaseforim & ludaica for two sets oftextbooks:

Machanayim Books -Yiddish - these books are in Yiddish

describing "miracles and faith.,,112 c. The check number for this purchase is 332323, and the description of the

purchase is listed only as "textbooks and workbooks".113 Complete and accurate ISBN numbers are not included in the purchase order.

110 HtiMalach HaGoe! and Other Bedtime Stories,, http;// (last visited July 11,2012).

lllLet's Go to Shull,, (last visited July 11,2012). 112 Ex. 34




The purchase order contains a disclaimer stating "do not send any books

that violate NYS textbook! library law. Only materials that are secular in nature can be accepted," yet the entire purchase order is for non-secular texts.l14 e. In purchase order BD12-01867, dated 11125/2011. The East Ramapo

Central School District paid $4,302.40 to Bais Rochel Books. No ISBN numbers are provided on the purchase orders and purchase orders are in English and in Yiddish.


The safety: and security. of public school students is compromised.
91. Public school grounds in the East Ramapo School District do not have "No

Trespassing" signs. The Board and Administrators directed that the schools not post "No Trespassing" signs.!15 Subsequently, unauthorized individuals have entered school premises and have not been met with police action. These trespasses have occurred even when children have been outside for recess.'

This is especially egregious given the fact that the East Ramapo

Central School District President has been made aware of these occurrences through a formal letter on April 7, 2012 from Rebecca Montesa, East Ramapo PTA, Interim Council President, Willie Trotman, NAACP - Spring Valley, and Hiram Rivera, Padres Unidos President.i'" ERCSD has yet to respond. 92. Certain individuals have claimed they have the "board's approval to be on the

school grounds" and have refused to leave the premises.r"

114Ex.34 115Ex. 35
116 117 118

Ex. 29 para 2, 3 Ex. 35 Ex. 35; Ex. 29, para 6



In addition to becoming aware through a formal letter requesting action,

concerned parents and the PTA held a public press conference at the Ramapo High School on May 4, 2012, complaining about the problem. 94.
1 19

Superintendent Joel Klein has publicly stated that he has observed trespassers but

has not proposed any action to resolve the problem.V'' despite the existence of a board policy on safety, which promotes the assurance and "maintenance of a safe school environment.t'':" 95. The Board, rather then addressing the problem, has asked the parents for

documentation of trespassers.

Shifting the burden on the parents to prove a security breach

and validate the necessity for proactive security measures, which is an essential duty of the School board, is unreasonable and puts the School District's students at risk.123

POINT I THERE IS A PATTERN OF FRAUD AND FAVORITISM IN THE SALE OF SCHOO~ PROPERTY. 96. "[I]t is well settled that when selling real property, a board of education has a

fiduciary duty to secure the best price obtainable in the board's judgment for any lawful use of the premises (internal citations omitted) ...However, a board of education may not act arbitrarily, and it must exercise its judgment and discretion in good faith (internal citations omitted). This includes taking reasonable steps to ascertain the value of a property and/or to utilize a method of

119 Concerns over trespassing at East Ramapo,, Avis= BH&Dato=20 120504&Kategori= NEWS&Lopenr=3 05040096& Ref=PH (last visited July 11,2012); Ex. 29, para 4 120 5-3- /2 Power of Ten Update, The Power ofTen, 2012). 121 Ex. 36

(last visited July II,


Ex. 37; Ex. 29, para 5 Ex. 38


sale which is apt to bring in the best price (internal citations omitted).,,124 Accordingly, the sale of Hillcrest was overturned by the Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner cited the Board's restrictive method of sale, including the acceptance of bids for less than one month, and the purely local advertisement of the RFP, and the distant location of the comparable properties used for the second appraisal. 97. The Board used a fraudulent appraisal of Hillcrest Elementary School which The

severely undervalued the sale price of the property to favor the sale to Congregation. "Comparable Sale #2" misrepresents the property sold for $1,900,000. This was not a comparable sale, and the appraisal may amount to fraud. 98.

Under the State Education Law, the Board of Education may lease real property

of the district if it is in the best interest of the school district.125 In addition the rental payments must "not be less than the fair market rental value as determined by the board of education. 126 The leasing of Hillcrest and Colton requires the Board's adherence to their fiduciary responsibilities and decision-making without favoritism. These leases were done without an investigation of the market rental price and were, in fact, done out of favoritism. 99. The Board's failure to address chronic late payments by Bais Malka and HASC

for leasing Colton is not within the best interests of the school district. This failure violates the terms of the lease agreement 127,which is the exact type of action reproached by the Comptroller in regards to health insurance payments. 100. The actions by the Board in regards 10 land sales and leases with Bais Malka,

HASC, and Congregation reflect preferential treatment:
Appeal of White, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. ]6,110

124 125

Education Law 403a (1) ld. Ex. 13, at 13, para 3 I and 6-7 para 20




Although the Board authorized its attorney to obtain a second appraisal for Hillcrest, which closely matched that of the Congregation's bid, the Commissioner was not satisfied that the Board saw this appraisal prior to approving of the sale to Congregation on July 28, 2010, which is "especially troubling.


The method of sale for Hillcrest was restrictive as it was only advertised locally, for less than a month, before bids were due.


The Board continues to lease Hillcrest to Congregation.

Congregation has a

right of first refusal to purchase the property and may extend the lease by one year terms, four successive times. This gives Congregation an unfair advantage over other potential bidders. There is no indication that their rent compensates the School District for this advantage.

The Board failed in "taking reasonable steps secure the best price" for the sale of Colton, and knew these actions were improper, as they were inconsistent with the Commissioner's directive, and State Law. The assessed market value of

Colton was $11,966,758 as of July 1,2010 (GET correct See Exhibit here), yet it was to be sold for $6.6 million. Their decision about a sale price came before the RFP was released and bids were received.

To date, the Board allows HASC and Bais Malka to continue leasing Colton while making late or no payments.


The Contract between the Board and Bais MaIka and HASC provides for a possible [386k + Building Projects on file amount] in givebacks and upon


Appeal o.fWhite, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,110


information and belief the Board has given right of first refusal to both HASC and Bais Maika. 101. After the Comptroller's Report and the decision by the Commissioner of

Education, the Board knew that their actions solely taken as a means to promote private religious education were improper, yet they continue with similar actions.

] 02. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), upon evaluation, a

child deemed to have special needs is guaranteed a right to a free and appropriate public education.

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed and states the child's disability

classification, annual goals and services/programs suggestions.

The Committee on Special

Education (CSE) created by the local Board of Education, holds annual reviews of the IEPs and makes placement recommendations. Only if a district is unable to provide a child with the recommended services in a public school is the child referred to a nonpublic school placement. "The State is not responsible for reimbursing a parent who unilaterally places their child in private school placement". (IDEA). 103. The State will also not reimburse local districts for private school placement if an

adequate public school placement exists. 131 104. As stated in this Petition, in 2010, the New York Education Department Office of

Special Education conducted a monitoring review of the East Ramapo School District


IDEA § 612 Education law 4402 or 8 NYCRR 200.4 8 NYCRR 200.4(d)(4)(ii)(b)



compliance with IDEA.


The report collected information from District records, IEP reports for

individual students and staff interviews about policy and procedure. The NYSED found IEPs that "lacked the proper documentation as required in section 100.4(d)(2)(i)." 105. Additionally, students' records reflected IEPs had been changed without required

notice provided to parents and CSE meeting. NYSED concluded that the district improperly placed students in private special education programs" when appropriate placements were available in public facilities."m 106. The Board of Education continued to violate the documentation requirements

into 2012, when the NYSED conducted a second review of district procedures. The continued disregard for State and Federal procedure resulted in the East Ramapo School district being denied reimbursement for a number of the private school placements they had already paid for out of budget. 107. IDEA and State Education Law set up a framework for districts to follow

throughout the evaluation and placement process. The New York State Education Department's Office of Special Education provided East Ramapo with additional suggestions. Despite these recommendations, the School district increasingly placed students in nonpublic school special education placements through the settlement process. These placements were discussed in executive sessions and were not properly documented.


132 133

See Ex. 21 See Ex. 21

134 Upon information and belief, the amount of special education settlements increased over four-fold from 20072009 years to the present. See, ERCSD Board of Education Meeting Minutes from 2007-2012, ERCSD Website, ( php?sectiondetailid=3 8228&catfilter=217 6#sho wDoc (last visited July 12,2012).


108. "Among other things, school boards are responsible for educational standards,

budget matters, management issues and health and safety. In carrying out these duties, individual board members have a fiduciary obligation to act constructively to achieve the best possible governance of the school district". 109.

Each member of a board of education of a school district must complete training

on "financial oversight, accountability and fiduciary responsibilities of a school board member." (N.Y. Educ. Law § 2l02-a). 110. "[A] school board member takes an oath of office to uphold the law and faithfully

discharge his duties ..." (Application of the Board of Education of the Elmont Union Free School District, 48 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 15,783.) 111. The ERCSD Board has not provided their School District with the "best possible

governance". Their actions are riddled with favoritism evidenced by their willful neglect to uphold their fiduciary responsibilities, provide adequate financial oversight, and hold accountable those violating their own Board policies. 112. The Board has failed to establish control mechanisms to ensure that nonpublic

schools maintain an inventory of books on loan, resulting in the inability for any internal or external oversight. 113. The Board has failed to enter into written agreements for professional services,

thereby failing to ensure the District that payments to professionals are commensurate with services rendered.


Application of Nett, 45 Ed Dept Rep, Decision 15,315.



The Board has failed to implement consistent and comprehensive procedures for

health insurance reimbursements, resulting in improper enrichment of Board members at taxpayers' expense. 115. The Board has overtly disregarded the security of public school students by

allowing individuals to trespass on school grounds. 116. The Board's actions are riddled with favoritism. They have engaged in a

longstanding pattern of practice of exploiting taxpayers' money for the promotion of private religious education. This is evidenced by the undervalued and fraudulent sale or leases of public school property to nonpublic schools, their willful noncompliance with Special Education rules, the purchase of non-secular textbooks for use in private schools, and the hiring Attorney D' Agostino who has a noted reputation for facilitating private religious school placements with public money. 117. The Board willfully refused to implement control mechanisms or their own Board

policies to ensure that taxpayers money is being spent in their best interests. The Board has knowledge of each of these occurrences and their willful refusal to act evidences their intent to continue to violate their fiduciary responsibilities.

118. New York State Education Law Article 15 § 701 outlines the powers of the local

Board of Education to purchase textbooks and the requirements for loaning them to non-public schools. Section 701(3) states "... boards of education ... shall have the power and duty to purchase and to loan upon individual request, textbooks, to all children residing in such district


who are enrolled in a public school ... and to all children residing in such district who are enrolled in a nonpublic school." (N.Y. Educ. Law § 701(3». 119. The policy of lending books to nonpublic schools began in the 1960s. Education

Law Article 65 describing compulsory education conferred a public benefit of education on school children regardless of their school affiliation. 120. New York Education Law § 701(3) reads, "Textbooks loaned to children enrolled

in said nonpublic schools shall be textbooks which are designated for use in any public school of the state or are approved by any boards of education, trustees or other school authorities". a. The Supreme Court notes in The Board of Education v. Allen, "the

language of § 701 does not authorize the loan of religious books, and the State claims no right to distribute religious literature. Although the books loaned are those required by the parochial school for use in specific courses, each book loaned must be approved by the public school authorities; only secular books may receive approval. 121.

The Supreme Court in Allen recognized the critical role of the Board of Education

in selecting textbooks and gives the local authority the responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the United States with their choices. a. The Court states, "Absent evidence, we cannot assume that school

authorities, who constantly face the same problem in selecting textbooks for use in the public schools, are unable to distinguish between secular and religious books or that they will not honestly discharge their duties under the law.',137 122. In East Ramapo Board members have authorized the purchase of a number of

religious texts. The non-secular nature of the textbooks purchased is not a minor detail. Book
BOE v Alien, 392 US 236, 245 (1968) BOE v Alien, 392 US 236, 245 (1968)

136 137


titles, descriptions and sources indicate that the books contain stories and depictions promoting the Jewish faith, and are not "textbooks which are designated for use in any public school". a. Books such as "The Embroidered Veil" is described in reviews as

heightening the reader's understanding and feeling for Judaism.138 b. Other texts include "Let My Nation Live"- full title "Let My Nation Live:

The Story of the Jewish Deliverance in the Days of Mordechai And Esther, "I Keep Kosher" a book describing foods fit or allowed to be eaten in accordance with religious faith and "5 Great Leaders" - full title "5 Great Leaders: R Chaim Ozer Zensky, R Meir Shapiro, R Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, R Eichonon Wasserman, The Chazon ish" by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman a book describing influential Rabbis and their leadership skill in teaching the Torah. 123. The actions of the Board in choosing and approving religious texts subverts the

trust the Supreme Court places in their position of authority. In his concurring opinion in Allen, Justice Harlan states, "The attitude of government toward religion must, as this Court has frequently observed, be one of neutrality ... It requires that 'government neither engage in nor compel religious practice, that it effect no favoritism among sects or between religion and non religion, and that it work deterrence of no religious belief." The East Ramapo School Board is showing favoritism and engaging in religious practice with the purchase of the books described in this Petition. This is not mere error. 124. In the Report of Examination issued by the New York State Comptroller,


School Board was put on notice in August of 20 11 when the report was issued, they had engaged in practices in violation of the text book law. Specifically, the Comptroller cited the Board for failing to enter into agreements with the nonpublic schools for the maintenance of inventory
See Ex. 33 See Ex. 30

138 139


records. At the time of the Comptroller's examination, the clerk of the book depository entered all textbooks purchased for the nonpublic school into the inventory initially, but was unable to give an the Comptroller an accurate inventory at the time of examination because the nonpublic schools were not required to report annual inventories to the district. In fact the nonpublic schools contacted directly by the Comptroller to supply inventory records did not answer the request. 125. Exhibit 34,33 and 44 are purchase orders for the texts described in this Petition.

The School Board approved of these reports, which did not contain any complete or accurate ISBN numbers. The descriptions listed on the checks for these books are listed only as "textbooks and workbooks," Many of the listed titles are not in English. Respondents were

members on the School Board on the dates of the textbook invoices and after the Comptroller's report was issued. 126. Board members responsible for these expenditures should be held accountable for

approving the purchase of the religious texts. Members either knew or should have known that the books were religious in nature, and are responsible to investigate the titles ordered. If they claim they did not know, writing blanket checks for "textbooks and workbooks" should be reason enough to remove the Board members. In this instance they either failed the duty to uphold the United States Constitution, emphasized by the Allen Court, or they blatantly disregarded it. 127. The current failure to exercise proper oversight, as previously admonished by the "The First Amendment

Comptroller, is now joined with a significant breach of the Constitution.


has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. could not approve the slightest breach.,,14o


128. buildings encourages The Board has a written policy regarding the safety of students in school

and on school grounds.l'"

Board Policy section 5450 states, "The Board of Education that must be implemented to provide a safe and

and supports all rules and regulations

healthy environment supervision

for all students. The safety of students shall be assured through close and on school grounds and through special attention ... ,,142The problem of trespassers of the Board on numerous using school The

of students in school buildings

to: (1) maintenance

of a safe school environment;

grounds as a shortcut has been brought to the attention Board has been addressed regarding


the security issue at board meetings

and from Petitioners.

Parents have asked the Board to place "No trespassing"

signs on school grounds. 143To date no actions. rules, intruders have

signs have been posted and the Board has taken no other significant 129. continued Without "No Trespassing"

signs or enforced trespassing

to use the school grounds as a shortcut and have been seen on campus during school and belief, police have not responded to reports of trespassing because

hours. Upon information no signs are posted.l'"

140 141 142 143

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing TP, 330 U.S. 1, 18 (1947). See Ex. 36 See Ex. 36 Ex. 35 120 5051NEWS03/3 0504008 8/East.Ramapo·parents·say·trespassers·go· (last visited July 1], 2012)

144 Ex. 29; school.grounds·districH'eassesses·security



Section 2801 of New York Education Law requires that the board of education or

trustees adopt a code of conduct to include "standards and procedures to assure security and safety of students and school personnel"

This statute also contains a provision that the school

board or trustees hold "at least one public hearing that provides for the participation of school personnel, parents, students and any other interested parties"!". The spirit of the law clearly contemplates the importance of parents, students, and the community's input into the policies governing student's safety. Yet, when continuously made aware of these safety violations, the Respondents are unresponsive. 131. The goal of requiring a school board to adopt a safety policy is only actualized if

the Board implements and enforces such policy. Failure to respond to parents reasonable request for posted signs is clear indication the Board has no interest in carrying out their duty to maintain a safe environment for students. 132. The Board, as district governing body, like a school, should be "".under a duty to

exercise the degree of reasonable care that a parent of ordinary prudence would have exercised under comparable circumstance.
,,[4 7

Section 414 of New York Education Law provides that

school grounds are "in the custody and under the control and supervision of the trustees or board of education of the district" and that they may adopt "reasonable regulations for use of ... grounds ...when the school is in use for school purposes if in the opinion of the ... board ... use will not be disruptive of normal school operations, for such other public purposes as herein

145 146 147

Education law 280 I(2)(b) ld. Ceglia v. Port/edge School, 187 A.D.2d 550, 550 (1992)




The list provided in section 414 does not authorize certain individuals to trespass

school grounds during the school day, or allow a Board to authorize such intrusions. 133.

In addition, Section 4] 4 states, "ls[uch regulations shall provide for the safety and

security of the pupils.,,15o 134. The Board has failed to enforce safety policies and has allowed individuals to

continue to trespass on school grounds during the school day despite parent concern. This action is a violation of New York Education Law and the Board has willfully neglected to enforce its own policy and take action in response to multiple known threats of their student's safety. 135. This failure should be of the highest concern to the Commissioner. The absence of

such simple safety measures, like "No Trespassing" signs, has led Parents to voice concern publicly in a press conference and involve both local and national organizations such as the NAACP and Padres Unidos. Still the Board has continued to ignore parents' concern. Children are vulnerable, even in the safest areas. It is critical to make sure school grounds are safe. Respondents' failure to act in this instance is an egregious neglect of duty.

136. Under the law a fiduciary relationship exists between each board member and the

schools in the district. Policies enacted by the Board must ensure fiduciary responsibility as promulgated by State education laws and regulations. In furtherance of this requirement, the

Board must implement and enforce those policies consistent with the letter and spirit of the law.


NY Educ. Law § 414

149Id. 150Id.


The Board has thus failed in this attempt by violating, and failing to enforce the following policies: a. Board Policy No. 1740 states that" [t]he nonpubIic school shall maintain an inventory of textbooks belonging to the District. .. and return those books to the District when they are no longer used by the nonpublic school.,,!5! The Board's actions are in direct violation of this policy. Furthermore, the Board has failed to amend the aforementioned policy in accordance with the Plan of Corrective Action which explicitly requires" a random physical inspection of nonpublic school textbooks to be reconciled against the District's own inventory of textbooks on loan to those schools.,,!52 In addition, an agreement" to maintain onsite the necessary records for textbooks on loan including student information, parent request, textbook inventory and their location" is required. If such amendments were made they have not been published pursuant to State laws and regulations. b. Board safety policy 5450 requires that" [t]he safety of students shall be assured through close supervision of students in all school buildings and on school grounds and ...special attention given to the maintenance of a safe school environment.v'< Therefore, the Board's action to reduce the number of assistant

principals in addition to numerous other practices that imperil the safety of students on school grounds are in contradiction to this stated policy.

151 152 153

Ex. 32 After an exhaustive search of the Board's website, no amendment to Board Policy 1740 was found. Ex. 36



Board Policy No. 6700-R states that professional services must "be procured in a manner so as to ensure the prudent and economical use of public monies in the best interests of the taxpayers.,,154 As evidenced by the Comptroller's Audit, the Board has violated this policy and continues to do so in an egregious manner by currently employing the services of Albert D' Agostino.

d. Board Policy No. 2560 relating to the payment of health insurance premiums states, " [t]he benefits clerk shall promptly remit bills ...and shall collect the premiums a timely fashion," 155 from Board members. A practice has been adopted by the board, which is inconsistent with the above-stated policy, the Board has allowed late payments of premiums and when applicable did not terminate the insurance of Board members who disregarded the aforementioned policy; the board has similarly allowed late lease payments for tenants of Colton . e d espite t hi" ease agreement provisions.

e. Board Policy No.6900 states, " Each year, a determination shall be made of which equipment ,[and] supplies are obsolete ...and [f]ollowing approval by the Board of Education items may be sold .. .',157 The Clerk at the Depository has failed to obtain prior approval from the requisite authority prior to disposing books that were considered obsolete. This action amounts to a substantial violation of this policy. In addition, the Board has not amended and subsequently published the required changes to the aforementioned policy pursuant to the Comptroller's Audit Recommendation and Corrective Action Plans.
154 155 156 157

See Ex. 41 See Ex. 42 Ex. 13, at 13, para 31 and 6-7 para 20 See Ex. 43



Superintendent of Schools, Joel Klein has stated, "We have policies. We have

procedures. We have a staff. Under the Corrective Action Plan, we'll review our policies, our procedures and make changes if needed. But as far as we can determine, we are following the letter of the law.,,158The Superintendent's statement acknowledges the existence of Board

policies that must be followed in accordance with "the letter of the law." However, Respondents have disregarded the Superintendent's directive and blatantly violated those policies. 138. The Board has not amended and published changes to policies pursuant to the

Comptroller's Audit Recommendation and Corrective Action Plans. Failure to amend, publish, implement and enforce Board policies in accordance with" the letter of the law," and the Comptroller's Audit Recommendations are additional breaches of the Board's fiduciary obligations.

139. In Commissioner of Education Decision No. 12,963, the Commissioner stated that

a delay in filing must be supported by the record and stated a complaint was not timely because it was based on information readily available to the public. This petition is distinguishable in that the supporting information was not readily available. Numerous FOIL requests were made by Petitioners and other parents in an attempt to gather accurate records to gain an understanding of Board actions. To date the Board has not responded to any of these. Petitioners have been required to go through individually the Commissioner's decisions and the Comptrollers records

in order to proceed with this action. Additionally, many of the improprieties cited in this petition

)5S East Ramapo Klein does his Finocchio act, Youtube, 8,2011, Last Visited on July 12,2012



are ongoing. Petitioners have also made efforts to investigate to gain information not accessible to the public through State and Federal Agencies. 140. One of the main contentions by Petitioners is that the ERCSB fails to keep

adequate records of their expenditures. From the public record Petitioner's were unable to gain an understanding of the extent to which the Board was potentially misusing funds. 141. The Commissioner of Education has allowed cases past the 30 days due to

complexity of the case. This is supported by Application of Griffin, 31 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 12,625. The disputed issue of timeliness centered on "when petitioner had knowledge of the level of the Board's spending for fiscal year 1988_89."J59 142. In Application of Griffin, a resident taxpayer and Mayor of the City of Buffalo

requested the removal of four Buffalo School Board members for alleged violations of law.160 The petitioner alleged that the Board's "spending plan" was in excess of the City's appropriation and the actual expenditures for the end of the fiscal year 1988-89 was in fact in excess of the appropriation, leading to a deficit. J 61 143. In Application of Griffin, the petitioner contend [ed] it was impossible for him to

determine accurately the actual level of the Board's spending until the Board's operations were reviewed by the City Comptroller and by the Board's independent auditors.


concede[ed] that he received the City Comptroller's Annual Report on January 10,1990, and that he received the independent auditor's report at some unspecified earlier time. J63 Nevertheless,

159 160

Application of Griffin, 31 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 12,625 Id. Application of Griffin, 31 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 12,625 Jd.


162/d. 163


petitioner claims that he was entitled to await clarification from the Board's auditors on the issue of overspending before commencing this appeal. 144.

The Commissioner of Education allowed the appeal even though it was

commenced within thirty days of a letter from the independent auditor containing information that was not new with respect to the Board's financial condition. 165 date information To requested by Petitioners has not been provided. Ultimately, the Commissioner "f1ou]nd that given the complexity of the issue, petitioner's action was reasonable and, therefore ... the appeal was timely commenced.,,166 145. Examining this case in light of the decision in Application of Griffin the

Commissioner should recognize the significant complexity of the circumstances Petitioners seek to address. Not only do Petitioners question the Board's financial condition with relation to spending for one year: a. Petitioners question a continued practice of violating IDEA and State Education Law; b. Petitioners question the use of fraudulent land appraisals in the sale of school property, and the ongoing failure to enforce leases. c. Petitioners question the procurement of third party services, often vaguely documented, which are ongoing. d. Petitioners question the purchase of non-secular textbooks, an ongoing practice. Investigation is hampered by incomplete or inaccurate invoices. e. Petitioners question the security of the students as trespassers continue to cross through school property, an ongoing problem.
165 166






The complexity of the instant case far exceeds that of the Application of Griffin attention and review.

decision, warranting Commissioner's a.

Further, the fact that many of the acts of the Board continue despite State

Agency review, audit, and direction, all of which have been ignored, necessitates exigent review by the Commissioner.




Over the past two years, while the Respondents' profligate actions proceeded, and

millions of dollars were spent on promoting religious education, the ERCSD has had to layoff 25% of its teachers, eliminate full-day kindergarten, eliminated school social workers, eliminated assistant principal slots, ended collaborative special education in the elementary schools, cut BOCES training programs, cut the Twilight Academy and increased class size. 167 148. Given the ongoing waste and First Amendment violations in a school district in

crisis, Petitioners request that the Commissioner appoint a Monitor to oversee the School Board. This monitor must, minimally, have power to review all expenditures and special education decisions. 149. The current Board has consistently failed to maintain proper documentation

regarding special education referrals, textbook inventory, and procurement of outside services.

167 Upon information and belief, budget cuts occurred across the board to educational programs during instances of increased spending by the Board. See, ERCSD Board of Education Meeting Minutes from 2007-2012, ERCSD Website, ucation/com ponents/docmgr/ default. php?sectiondetai Iid=3 8228&catfi Iter=2 ] 76#show Doc (last visited July 12,2012). Proposed budget cuts are vague and without direction causing parents and even Board members from not being able to evaluate if a program was an educational or a non-mandated program. When asked when more information was to be provided, other Board members stated that the information would be provided at the vote in April, leaving no time to access the programs and their value. (See East Ramapo School Board ~ Mismanagement and Cuts for 2012-2013, You Tube, (last visited July 13,2012)).


The Board has approved of the sale of school property for less than half its value twice, hired an attorney at double the cost of the prior attorneys, purchased religious textbooks, and "lost" many others. The board has generated exorbitant costs for the district in its push to fund religious education. Even when evaluated and reprimanded by State Agencies, this Board has disregarded their suggestions and continued the practice of covering up their malfeasance in office by not maintaining adequate records. It is clear that Respondents, now a Board majority, have no concern for the best interests of all children in the district, as they destroy public education and continue to spend money to support private religious interests. 150. If left unchecked the Board will continue the pattern of impropriety that will

ultimately cause the district school system to collapse and children to be irreparably harmed by the loss of quality public education. The Commissioner of Education has the power to appoint a Permanent Monitor to oversee Board Activities. 151. The Commissioner of Education has "general supervision over" the East Ramapo

Central School District and "shall advise and guide the school officers of all districts ... in relation to their duties and the general management of the schools under their controL,,]68 Given this power, the Commissioner of Education has authority to appoint a monitor to supervise a school district. See Verbanic v. Nyquist, 73 Misc.2d 458 (N.Y. Special Term 1972), aff'd, 41 A.D.2d 466 (Third Dept. 1973). What location; affirmed, As long as the Overseer was not given the power to "substitute his opinion and determination for those of the local board.,,]69


N.Y. Educ. Law § 305 General Powers and Duties, Section 2. Verbanic v. Nyquist, 41 A.D.2d 466,344 N.Y.S.2d 406 (1973).



WHEREFORE, Petitioners request that the Commissioner: 1. Pending determination of this Petition, appoint an Interim Monitor, with final

right of approval on all expenditures and Special Education placements, to oversee the East Ramapo School District; 2. Remove the Respondent Board Members and bar them from holding school board

office in the future, and appoint a Monitor for three years with final right of approval on all East Ramapo School District financial and special education matter. 3. Grant all other relief which is just and proper.

Dated: July 13,2012



Exhibit List Exhibit 1: ERCSD Board Meeting minutes 4-19-2010 Exhibit 2: Steve White initial complaint against Hillcrest sale Exhibit 3: Complaint from Steven White to John Katzenstein, New York State Attorney General (November 25, 2010) Exhibit 4: ERCSD Board of Education Minutes 10-20-2010 Exhibit 5: Document 27785, Land Only Exhibit 6: Comparable Sale #2 for Hillcrest Exhibit 7: ERCSD Board Meeting minutes 8-29-2011 Exhibit 8: ERCSD Board Meeting Minutes 4-22-2009 Exhibit 9: ERCSD Board Minutes 5-6-2009 Exhibit 10: Board Meeting Minutes 7-15-2009 Exhibit 11: Lease Exhibit 12: ERCSD Invoice/Credit Memo History For Customer Bais Maika School and various checks Exhibit 13: Rider to Lease Exhibit 14: ERCSD Board Meeting Minutes: May 25, 2011 (Sale of Colton Motion passed) Exhibit 15: Contract of Sale of Colton between ERCSD and Bais Malka and HSAC Exhibit 16: RFP Exhibit 17: Journal News Exhibit 18: Verified Petition of Brenda Carole Anderson Exhibit 19: Email FOIL request from Luciano Exhibit 20: NYSED document, "Building Projects on file", Exhibit 21: Special Education Quality Assurance Monitoring Review Final Report Narrative Exhibit 22: Notice to the East Ramapo Central School District Community of Noncompliance (February 2012) Exhibit 23: ERCSD Board Minutes 11-18-09 Exhibit 24: Board Minutes 12-1-2009 Exhibit 25: ERCSD Board Minutes 12-2-2009 Exhibit 26: ERCSD Board Minutes 2-1-2010 Exhibit 27: ERCSD Board Minutes 2-2-2010 Exhibit 28: ERCSD Board Minutes 2-3-2010 Exhibit 29: Affidavit Kim Foskew Exhibit 30: East Ramapo Central School District ("ERCSD"), Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Activities, Report of Examination (August 2011) Exhibit 31: ERCSD Plan of Corrective Action (November 22, 2011) Exhibit 32 Board Policy No. 1740 Exhibit 33: Textbook purchase order FP 11-05351 Exhibit 34: Textbook purchase order BD12-02199 Exhibit 35: April 7,2012 Letter to Morris Kohn, President ERCSD Exhibit 36: Board Policy 5450 Exhibit 37: Affidavit Hiram Rivera Exhibit 38: Email Correspondence - Rebecca Montesa Exhibit 40: White's Appraisal fraud complaint timeline


Exhibit Exhibit Exhibit Exhibit

41: 42: 43: 44:

Board Policy No. 6700-R Board Policy No. 2560 Board Policy No. 6900 Textbook purchase order BD12-02911


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