A Lackawanna School District employee has asked the state education commissioner to remove Helen Chmiel as School Board president, alleging misconduct and abuse of power.
Rosemary Gelyon, a lunch monitor at Truman Elementary School, also wants Commissioner Thomas Sobol to reprimand the Board of Education for not correcting what she alleges has been misconduct by Mrs. Chmiel.
In a sworn statement Mrs. Gelyon said that on Sept. 20 Mrs. Chmiel chastised her in the school cafeteria in front of students and other employees because she had questioned a School Board policy during a meeting the previous night.
"Why is she allowed to constantly abuse people?" Mrs. Gelyon said. "If I did it to her, wouldn't I be reprimanded?"
In a Sept. 20 letter to the board, Mrs. Gelyon said Mrs. Chmiel told her she has no right to question a board decision concerning the hiring of substitute monitors. She quoted Mrs. Chmiel as saying, "You wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me. Nothing is what you should have -- nothing."
Mrs. Chmiel and interim Superintendent Nicholas D. Korach declined comment because the issue involves litigation. James Shaw, the school system's attorney, said last week he was preparing a response to the allegations to be mailed to the commissioner, but wouldn't comment further.
Mrs. Gelyon has filed documents with the commissioner requesting a hearing on the allgations. The district has until Wednesday to file a response, said Christopher Carpenter, Education Department spokesman.
The commissioner can remove a School Board member if he or she is found guilty of willful neglect of duty or of breaking a law, Carpenter said. Removal is very rare and was last done several years ago in a case involving a New York City board member, he said. A removal also is subject to court challenge.
During the Oct. 18 School Board meeting, Stephen Bokan, a board member, apologized to Mrs. Gelyon on behalf of an unnamed board member, but the board itself took no action.
Mrs. Chmiel was identified as the board member in an account of the meeting in The Buffalo News.
In her petition to Sobol, Mrs. Gelyon called the incident "another example of (Mrs. Chmiel's) practice of exceeding her authority in a pattern of intimidating and harassing employees who question the reason or mechanism of board policy."