Has M-W School Board member Ray Rivera left the district?

| 22 Feb 2012 | 05:22

    Board member’s status could affect ballot in May Central Valley - Monroe-Woodbury School Board member Ray Rivera has retired from the New York City Police Department, sold his house in the town of Woodbury and reportedly moved to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. He has not officially informed the eight other members of the Monroe-Woodbury School Board what his plans are, nor is he required to, by school board policy and state law. However, school board member Theresa Budich said on Monday’s board meeting that it was imperative to determine Rivera’s status prior to this year’s school board election in order to allow voters to have a say in filling his seat. Three of the nine seats on the board are up for election this May. People have until April 17 to gather the 99 or so signatures on their petitions to seek the office. The term of office is three years; three seats are contested each year. Should Rivera resign before then, four seats would be open. Power and voting There are two things at stake: Power and voting. Although there are rare public disagreements at M-W board meetings, a shift in four of the nine of positions could change the balance of power. If Rivera does not resign, or if he makes his decision after the election in May, the appointment to fill his seat would fall to the School Board. Rivera was elected to the board two years ago; he has not been at any meetings since January. There is nothing that requires a school board member to attend meetings, nor is there any penalty for failing to show up for meetings. Rivera has posted a page on LinkedIn, a business-related Web site, in which he describes himself as a retired detective with the NYPD now in the Raleigh-Durham area. He lists his interests as security and investigations. Under the “past” and “experience” categories, he lists his service as member of the M-W Board of Education. School Board President Dr. Michael DiGeronimo said short of resignation or death, a school board member can only be removed by order of the state Commissioner of Education. Although Rivera’s name plate and seat at the board meeting had been removed at Monday’s meeting, “Ray has not resigned,” DiGeronimo said. The board authorized DiGeronimo to get in touch with Rivera to find out his intentions. The school board president said Wednesday he already had sent an e-mail to Rivera; he expected to hear from him soon. Superintendent’s brother-in-law Meanwhile, at the end of Monday’s meeting, Budich said she was troubled with the fact that the brother-in-law of School Superintendent Edward J. Mehrhof had been hired last September as a maintenance worker in the district at a salary of $52,000. She wanted to know why the relationship had not been previously disclosed. If she had known of the relationship, she said she would not have voted to approve the hiring. The position was among a number of hires that the board approved in September. Typically, the board votes yea or nay on a single resolution that covers all positions. Board members do receive supporting information prior to the meetings. Mehrhof said there never was any secret about his relationship with his brother-in-law, but he neither aided nor abetted the man’s job search. “It was never a secret,” he said. “Why would it be? There was no strings attached.” Assistant Superintendent for Business and Management Services Jeffrey T. White said the relationship was not a factor in the hiring. “He was the best candidate,” White said. He also noted that the man had been a finalist for a similar job in the district two years ago. There is no policy or provision within the district that would limit or restrict the hiring of an individual based on his or her relationship to someone already employed by the district. Nor is it uncommon that spouses and children of school board members work for the district. In an interview Wednesday, DiGeronimo said there was nothing amiss with the hiring. Instead, he said he questioned Budich’s motivation, which he concluded must be political coming so many months after the fact. It is an issue, though, that will not fade away and could very well be a factor for the remainder of the school year. - Bob Quinn