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Ex-members file legal action against Lew-Port School Board

Edward M. Lilly and Scott A. Stepien were voted off the Lewiston-Porter School Board June 30, but despite their absence, they still had a big impact on Tuesday night's board meeting.

The board voted to indemnify former Board President David S. Schaubert, agreeing to pay for his legal defense and other possible costs after Lilly filed a legal action against him claiming he owes Lilly $655 in financial losses.

"It doesn't say what it's for. We don't know what it's for," said F. Warren Kahn, the school district's lawyer.

The board also voted to do the same for Board President Robert L. Laub, Vice President James Mezhir and Kahn, who were named "as respondents" in an appeal Stepien has submitted to state Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills, asking to be reinstated as a board member.

The two members were kicked off the board for failing to take a state-mandated financial oversight course within a year of being elected to office. The deadline was midnight June 30. Both men said they were unaware of the requirement and had signed up to take the course on July 28 before they were ousted.

The action also came more than a month after Lilly asked Mills to kick Schaubert and Louis M. Palmeri off the board. Their terms expired on June 30.

The situation prompted newly elected board member James J. Sperduti to write Mills a letter suggesting a couple ways to deal with what has been a historically cantankerous School Board.

He wrote: "There are currently charges and appeals of charges in the Lew-Port district calling for the removal of certain board members. As a recently elected member, I have a couple of suggestions on how you could handle the never-ending cycle of petty politics and endless litigation that plague this district and waste your time and this district's tax dollars:

"1. Remove the entire board and handpick a control board to run the district until a special election can be held next year.

"2. Better yet . . . Dismiss the pending charges against all board members as they are truly without merit and send a representative of your office to Lew-Port to initiate an intervention so to speak. Get the seven board members and your representative in a room together -- may I suggest a kindergarten room. Lock the door and don't open it until the board members shake hands, agree to move forward, and act like adults or die of old age, whichever comes first."

He closed the letter asking Mills for "any help or guidance" he can give that doesn't involve the "removal of any legally elected board member."

Sperduti said when he was sworn into office on July 5 it should have been a time of congratulations and looking forward to a bright future for the district.

"Instead it was overshadowed by current legal proceedings," he said.

"It would have been nice to start the year off with a clean slate . . . It would have been nice if my two daughters would have been there to see their dad sworn in. But I was so worried the proceedings would have become embarrassing that I left them home. It would be nice if the board can learn from past experience instead of" continuing to squabble.

New board members Keith Fox and Mike Gentile said the board should be able to act like adults and agree to disagree on some issues instead of resorting to infighting.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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