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Letter: Board of Ed Lacks Ethics

Patch reader Bob Urbancik says the board violates ethics policies that have been in place since 1999.

*Local and frequent speaker at Board of Education meetings Bob Urbancik emailed this letter to Patch criticizing the Board of Education's lack of ethics.

Since Feb. 9, 1999 the members of the Smithtown Board of Ed were required to sign and follow Policy 2160-E. Sadly the present Board is operating without signing this required policy. The policy is an "Ethics Exhibit." I find this to be a very serious situation; especially when viewed with some recent acts of some Board Members.

The current Vice President of the Board, Mrs. Knox‘s actions stand out. Her husband is an accountant whose boss conducted an annual audit of the district for the last several years. After the most recent audit a member of the board claimed that the audit committee (which Mrs. Knox’s husband's boss was on) exceeded its authority. Mrs. Knox denied that. But, after several months it was found that the committee did exceeded its authority. But, Mrs. Knox still disputes that. The audit is done as an unpaid service to the district. I strongly believe that the district should accept the services of a new auditor (Mrs. Knox’s husband’s boss has been doing it for several years); if it was a paid position Mrs. Knox husband’s boss would not be allowed as the potential for a conflict of interest. I believe that the potential for a conflict is real even for this unpaid position. And with the district’s finding the committee exceeded its authority along with Mrs. Knox denial of this a solution is needed.

Clearly Mrs. Knox husband’s boss should not be auditing the district while Mrs. Knox serves on the Board. And to be clear Mrs. Knox husband is a member of a large firm and his boss is on the audit committee and this firm should not be allowed to audit the District.

Going over the district budgets for the last several years we learned that the District sometimes had reserves over $12,000,000 and raised our taxes while holding on to the reserves. Perhaps an audit by an impartial community member would point out how to use these reserves more wisely. At minimum it would eliminate a husband auditing work done by his wife.

The current President of the Board is a very honest, hardworking and fair person. And along with Mrs. Knox the Vice President she is a long serving board member. I have gone to many meetings and I strongly believe that Mrs. Waldron always followed the items of the ethics exhibit. But I believe Mrs. Knox clearly violated the ethics exhibit; which in part states “ avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest."

Mrs. Knox’s belief that her husband’s boss’s committee did not exceeded its’ authority continues after the District found that it did.

As a community we are entitled to fair and ethical treatment. The current situation needs to be repaired now. How can Mrs. Knox believe that her husband's boss can audit the district without the appearance of a conflict of interest? And how can her denials about the district’s finding not be a conflict of interest? And why did she not sign the required Ethics Exhibit? And since Mrs. Knox is a long standing board member how could she not know about the Ethics Exhibit. I found it ; it’s on the District’s website. I am not sure but I think Mrs. Knox was a Board member when the policy was adopted.

Another troubling matter is the lack of transparency concerning our school district. We are not getting the full information about important matters and the information we do get is delayed. With the loss of the $3.1 million dollars the district and the Board of Ed refused to give us all the details. This makes the need for an independent auditor a real priority for the community.

And recently several members of the community asked the Board of Ed to supply more copies of the expanded agendas for the public Board of Ed meetings. Our Board of Ed responded to eliminate ALL agendas. The district cited a new law that allows them to do so. But this law does not require the district to eliminate the agendas. Now if someone goes to a Board meeting for the first time there is no way to follow along. The expanded agendas provided useful information about what was happening in the district. I guess the Board of Ed doesn’t want us to have that information.

– Bob Urbancik

Pam February 24, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Sorry gentlemen but after 9 years and a roomful of documents I totally disagree with you. Filed a complaint myself with the NYS comptrollers office last April, it is being investigated according to my letter from them. It may be arms length but it is a cause of concern. Especially if you were at the particular Audit Committee meeting, do not think you were, could be wrong, but there were only 3 community members in the room that evening as well as 2 reps from SCSD bargaining units, as well as the BoE members that chose to come Terri was 1 of them.
scsddad February 24, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Bill I see you agree with One Opinion the comments about Ms Knox is terrible even though you don't know the facts but you have nothing to say about Ms Plourde spitting on another board member. About what I said about another financial problem I heard it was mentioned at a board meeting
Bill February 24, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Oh I attend many BOE meetings I hear mr sagasse attack ms Knox and how he feels that there is a conflict of interest because of her husbands firm handling the audit. So I have a clue buddy. I do feel that it could have a conflict but I feel that she is better than having mr sagasse on the audit committee. That guy stated that he has earned the respect of the community get a clue buddy you not earned the respect of any community and the majority of the people that attend the BOE meeting just laughs when he speaks. Especially when the room is packed. As for the other issue I don't have a comment because I do not have all the facts I did not attend the last meeting. If that is true then it should be dealt with.
Bill February 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Pam, I have not heard of any financial problems nor have I read about it. I actually believe that you have some type of documents. I always see you with documents in your hands. LOL.. Was this issue ever brought to the attention of the community? SCSDAD mention that he heard this? Maybe he is a current BOE member and heard about this in exec session. Just a thought.
scsddad February 24, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Bill It was brought up at the last board meeting on 3/14 okay BUDDY. I thought Ms Waldron was the big joke of the board. It's a joke you think you can speak for the whole community and the people that attend BOE BUDDY. I didn't think you would have a comment about Ms Plourde not surprising
scsddad February 24, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I meant 2/14
Bill February 24, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Brought up by who? No comment on who the big joke on the BOE is. Sitting in the audience usually in the middle section, I hear what the community members are saying when Mr. Saggase speaks. Most of it is not positive comments. Especially when the meetings are well attended. We shall see what happens in June with the elections.. I do not have a comment because I was not at the last meeting and I did not hear what exactly happened. I heard one point of view but I don't want to comment on something I don't have all the facts. As I stated before if this is true it should be dealt with.
Bill February 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Pam, I do recall the BOE talking about H2M contract. I recall they had a special meeting to talk about it. Not sure if that information about the contract dispute is private or public?
Smithtown Mom of 3 February 25, 2012 at 01:05 PM
scsddad~There is no question that spitting on another board member is unacceptable. However, as a woman and consistent atendee at BOE meeetings, I can see how Mr. Saggese's antagonistic comments and bully tactics could push someone to the point of doing things uncharacteristic of their behavior. I often agree with his points, BUT....the path he takes to make them cause MANY of us audience members to cringe in our seats. I guess he's never heard the phrase "you catch more bees with honey". I, for one, would not want to be sitting at the podium next to him. And, in all fairness to Mrs. Plourde, I believe her actions were provoked by yet another nasty rebuke by Mr. Sagesse.
One Opinion February 25, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Nobody seems to have mentioned that when Ms Plourde challenged Mr Saggese on the spitting accusation and stated that she did not spit on him. Mr Saggese then changed his statement a bit and said something like, maybe it was a cough directed at me but it seem like spitting. Ms Plourde did fully appologize for the cursing. Many people who watch Mr Saggese can understand how he can bring someone to the point of cursing. I am certainly not a fan of Ms Plourde, due specifically to how she won her seat. But I think this was an emotionally charged issue that adults should have taken care of themselves and not in front of an audience. There are bigger issues out there to be working on.
Bill February 25, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Scsdad. You failed to mention that she stated that she coughed and that mr sagasse changed his statement. This is why I had no comment on it. Mr sagasse needs to go.
Bill February 25, 2012 at 01:54 PM
One opinion I agree that the BOE and the district and the unions have to come together and work on the bigger picture. Not focus on who spit on who. Mr sagasse should have dealt with this in private and not bring it on in public especially since he changed his stance and called it a cough.
Pam February 25, 2012 at 08:16 PM
@Bill-actually it is because of the BoE attorney's comments and body language that I FOIL'd the documents for H2M. Thanks Mr Barnosky. Sometimes it's the little things that you find that show the bigger picture.
Bill February 25, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Yes he tried to quiet board members up because it was discussed in exec session
scsddad February 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Bill Most people cover there mouth when they cough they just don't cough on people unless they have no manners or are doing it on purpose. With Ms Proude telling him FU I think it was on purpose. Most ladies wouldn't do this then again we are talking about Ms Plourde.
scsddad February 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM
One Opinion Was that the same way Ms McEnroy won her seat on the board
scsddad February 25, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Ms Plourde and Ms McEnroy needs to go
Bill February 25, 2012 at 10:32 PM
What has she done that is so bad for the BOE? Beside voting for limiting the speaking down to 3 minutes. I can almost guess that the STA would not be in favor of this because when the president spoke he needed more time.
Heard Around Town February 25, 2012 at 10:42 PM
The focus for this upcoming week should not be on Ms. Knox or Ms. Plourde. The focus should be on the outcome of the school closing vote. There are a lot parents on edge at Mills Pond and Nesconset. Let's not lose sight of the important things like the students instead of discussions stirred up in public by Mr. Sagesse which should be have been handled behind close doors.
scsddad February 26, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Why do you think it's always about what the STA wants
Bill February 26, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Because you say that Mrs. McEnroy is so bad and needs to go. I am still waiting to hear why she is so bad and I didn't want you to use the comment that she was in favor of cutting the speaking time down. I am still waiting for your reasons. You have referenced before that she is part of the STA.
scsddad February 26, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Point of View You are right the focus should be on the school closing since it effects so many families. Let's hope the board votes what they think is best for the community and not best for there own interest. What ever way they vote people won't be happy
Bill February 26, 2012 at 12:28 AM
I actually agree with u. What ever way they vote people won't be happy. I feel the board has a very tough choice to make. Good luck. I don't agree with the statement "not best for there own interest". That sounds like mr. Sagasse talking about mrs Knox. We shall see
scsddad February 26, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Bill You don't agree they shouldn't vote for there own interest. Are you saying they should vote for there interest and not the communities.
Bill February 26, 2012 at 02:46 AM
SCSDAD, i was commenting on your comment referring to "Let's hope the board votes what they think is best for the community and not best for there own interest." That is something Mr. Saggasse says at almost every meeting. He think Mrs. Knox is not going to vote for Nesconset closing because it is her home school. After hearing Mrs. Knox defend herself, I feel very confident that she is going to vote for what is best for the district. I am still waiting to hear what is wrong with Mrs. McEnroy and why she is so bad for the BOE.
scsddad February 26, 2012 at 03:01 AM
In my opinion she is still to close to the STA and I think they are her main concern that's my opinion. I know your opinion is different let's hope for the best
Bill February 26, 2012 at 03:05 AM
well we shall see. It's March and still no settled contracts. Let's hope everyone can sit down in a room and get these contracts settled before the budget vote.
One Opinion February 26, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I can only speak to my own opinion. I find it questionable that Ms McEnroy chose this past election to run for a seat on BOE. She was on the executive board of the STA when the union declared impasse with the district. I cannot believe a person coming from this background will be asking the tough questions or make the make the difficult votes that will be necessary to get the district finances in order. Why did the STA work so hard, even resorting to inappropiate campaigning to get both Ms McEnroy and Ms Plourde elected? Because they want Mr Carlin and Mr Rossi out. Does anyone remember Mr Rossi's statement at his last BOE meeting? That was a statement from a man who had nothing to loose but to tell the truth about what was happening with the STA issues. Mr Carlin spoke repeatly, educating the public on what was actually happening. These are the type of people I want representing the students and taxpayers of Smithtown. I do not doubt that Ms McEnroy has an education background that is an asset but her ties to the STA negate that fact. I hope that I will see all the BOE members, not just Mr Saggese, speak out and aggresively question the status quo. So far the only votes I have seen from the freshmen members have been to restrict public speaking time. Not very progressive and open if you ask me.
One Opinion February 26, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I would be shocked if they settled the contract before the budget vote. The union has no incentive to negotiate. I think the administration understands that the public is fully aware of the implications of a contract that is not signifigantly scaled back from the one that expired in 2010. The unions can go for years and years collecting their 5% increases. Hopefully with the Gov Cuomos mandate regarding APPR the district must have an agreement in place by Jan 2013 in order to qualify for additional state aid. That might get things moving. However, I fear that the taxpayers are not going to be happy when this contract is settled. Let's see how that plays out.
scsddad March 01, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Smithtown Mom of 3 Maybe this is Ms Plourde real character

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