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Interviews For Hen Hud School Board Seat Closed To Public

MONTROSE, N.Y. – Interviews to fill an unexpired elected term on the Hendrick Hudson Board of Education were held Monday evening behind closed doors, even though the board president told fellow board members that interviews could be performed in public.

The school board’s closed meeting does not seem to correspond with the New York Committee on Open Government’s (COOG) position that closed meetings with possible appointees to elective office are not in the spirit of open government laws.

According to Robert Freeman, executive director of COOG, this use of a closed meeting, known as executive session, may not follow case law precedent.

Marion Walsh, Hendrick Hudson School Board president, said Monday evening that privacy matters such as employment and medical history intertwined with the entirety of every interview with five possible appointees to finish the unexpired term of school board member William Oricchio.

The cost of running an election affected the decision to appoint Oricchio's successor, Walsh said. An election would cost "at least $10,000," she said.

However, before the board officially called the meeting into session, Walsh told her fellow board members the interviews needed to be held in public. Board members objected, saying it was inappropriate, and with a majority vote, the board entered executive session.

"It's negative to the people who aren't chosen," Oricchio said about conducting the interviews in public.

"Would you want to have a job interview in public?" board member Mary-Pat Briggi said. "It’s uncomfortable for anybody."

Still, Freeman said he knew of only one case, Gordon V. Village of Monticello , that dealt directly with a government body that entered executive session to discuss filling a vacancy in an elective office. He said the court decision found no basis for the executive session and said its use was “misplaced.”

"The judge was saying, between the lines, there's no reason why this process should be secret," Freeman said during a phone interview Monday morning.

Public bodies may enter into executive session, Freeman said, to discuss “the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person” or matters leading to an applicant’s appointment.

The five candidates interviewed were Carol Popolow Abraham, Diane Perilli, Joanna Harbolic, Toni Salvadore and David White.