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2 ousted from posts on Lew-Port School Board

Two Lewiston-Porter School Board members were ousted from the board late Saturday after a marathon hearing on official misconduct charges.

Edward M. Lilly and Scott A. Stepien -- accused of not taking a six-hour fiscal oversight course as required under state law -- were voted off the board in a 4-2 vote after 10 p.m. They defended themselves and questioned board Clerk Debra Sherman and three board members until about 7:45 p.m., during a hearing conducted by Richard Griffin, a Buffalo lawyer who was designated as hearing officer.

The hearing got under way at 1:30 p.m., with Sherman being the first called to testify.

Though Lilly and Stepien said they did not remember receiving notice that they had to take the course, Sherman testified she had included notices about the requirement in all board meeting packets for Sept. 1, April 14, May 11 and May 18.

"I searched my files and came across four notices that I included on the offer for fiscal oversight training in the board informations. They included dates and how to register," Sherman said.

She said the notices said board members are required to take the course by law but did warn they could be removed from office for noncompliance.

At one point, Stepien questioned board Vice President Louis A. Palmeri and asked him if he had actually seen the board packets received by Stepien. Palmeri admitted he had seen only the packet sent to him but also said that all board packets contain identical information.

Lilly asked board President David S. Schaubert why he decided to take such drastic action instead of just telling both him and Stepien they needed to take the course, thus avoiding the hearing process.

Schaubert told Lilly he had spoken to him about it twice this past year, letting Lilly know he had to take the course before the first year of his new term was over at midnight Saturday. He said he also addressed Stepien about the issue and added that neither board member seemed interested in signing up. He said Lilly told him he had been a board member for more than nine years and did not have to take it.

Lilly and Stepien asked why Schaubert and Palmeri, whose offices expired at midnight Saturday, would even schedule the hearing.

They said the issue should be handled by the new board, including newly elected board members Michael Gentile, Robert Weller and Keith Fox.

Schaubert said he took action because the last time Lilly and Stepien could have taken the course this school year was on June 9. He noted that board members James Mezhir and Robert Laub had taken the course the year before, and newly elected members Fox and Gentile also have taken the course.

School officials noted that Lilly and Stepien have signed up to take the course in July.

When Lilly asked Palmeri why he agreed to a hearing that could remove them from the board, Palmeri, who has six years experience on the board, said, "I looked at the facts.

"You received four notices about it," he said. "You and Stepien both voted to approve this policy last year."


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