Taming Lame Ducks

July 15, 2011

New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle (R,C,I – Port Jefferson) said today the abuse of taxpayers by two outgoing school boards has prompted him to introduce legislation that would require a lame duck  school board to have a supermajority vote in order to approve a contract for a new superintendent when the hiring occurs between the annual May vote and the annual reorganizational meeting of a local school board. Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R,C  -Shoreham) will sponsor the legislation in the Assembly.

“My legislation, “ Senator LaValle said, “will prevent these outrageous and unconscionable abuses of taxpayer dollars  by requiring a supermajority vote by a board hoping to quickly push through the hiring of a school superintendent.”

LaValle cited  two boards’ actions for the proposed new law.

Just last month, LaValle said,  Wyandanch's outgoing school-board majority pushed through a new, three-year, $570,000 pay package for its superintendent. The measure passed on a 4-3 vote. The three board members who form part of the new board’s majority voted no.

And in Shoreham, a lame-duck board hired new superintendent Dr. Steven Cohen and awarded him  a 4- year, $210,000 per year contract with no input from a new incoming board. And with only three hours left in their term, the outgoing board entered into a per diem fee arrangement to pay Cohen an additional $1,240 per day  for a 10-day “transition period.”

“Clearly,” Senator LaValle said, “by accepting an eleventh-hour appointment and then padding it with a per diem arrangement,  Dr. Cohen never took a course in community relations. Shoreham and Wyandanch have made the case for this new legislation as well as underscoring the need for the property tax cap. No one locally is protecting the taxpayer.”

“The actions by the Wyandanch and Shoreham-Wading River outgoing school board majorities clearly make the case for why the tax cap we put in place is needed” said Assemblyman Losquadro.  “With school district costs accounting for 65-75% of the average tax bill, the public has a perception that their school boards are doing little to rein in costs.  While this is not the case for most districts, these two schools boards reinforce the public’s worst fears of backroom sweetheart deals that cost us all on our taxes.”

“To see two school districts in one county take the same unconscionable actions in their lame-duck sessions led Senator LaValle and I to craft this legislation for the protection of the taxpaying public” said Losquadro.  “I am certain that this behavior is not limited to Suffolk County, requiring a super-majority vote during this time period will be an added defense against abuses state-wide” he added.

“As a resident of the Shoreham-Wading River School District, I am particularly outraged that the very same board members who ran on a platform of administrative givebacks are padding the very contract of the highest paid administrator in the district while at the same time lamenting the lack of funds to keep existing programs in place.  Rarely does one see this type of hypocrisy on public display.”

“I can only hope that in the interest of avoiding having fences that need to be mended from the word go, incoming Superintendent Cohen will realize the outgoing board majority did him no favors and will wisely refuse the additional compensation offered to him during this terrible fiscal climate” concluded Losquadro