Booted off the Lewiston-Porter School Board on June 30, Scott A. Stepien and Edward M. Lilly are taking steps to be reinstated to their elected board posts.
They hope that happens sometime in September. Meanwhile, they're taking matters into their own hands today by attending a fiscal oversight training class.
Fellow board members ousted them from the board for not taking the class, which the state requires board members to take within a year after being elected or re-elected to office.
Neither Stepien nor Lilly had done so by the June 30 deadline and were kicked off the board that day after an eight-hour hearing and by a 4-2 board vote. Lilly and Stepien voted no.
Stepien said he already has filed an appeal of that action with State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills.
Lilly said he will file his appeal this weekend.
"We are asking for a stay, some kind of interim relief which would put us back on the board until the case is resolved. We hope to be back on the board sometime in September," Lilly said. He said he hopes the commissioner will make a final decision within the next eight months, making their temporary reinstatements permanent.
Meanwhile, Stepien and Lilly said earlier this week they would be traveling together today to the Olean Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Southern Tier to take the required six hours of fiscal oversight training. The program starts at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. The cost is $110 per person.
In his appeal, Stepien said he told the commissioner: "We didn't know about the class. We didn't know about the requirement. When we found out about it, we signed up for it right away, and we're going to it."
The two men said they signed up for the course in late May or early June after they learned about the state mandate.
Stepien said the problem was that once he and Lilly learned about the requirement, it was too late to take the course before the June 30 deadline. He said the soonest it was available in Western New York was this weekend in Olean.
He said he and Lilly are doing everything they can to be placed back on the board, and he hopes the commissioner sides with them because they didn't intentionally fail to comply with the state mandate.
"I think the commissioner has broad discretion in this, and I'm hoping that he reads our submissions and makes the right decisions," Stepien said.
Lilly said the board dismissed them on a charge of official misconduct for not taking the training. He said the charge was uncalled for.
"It can't be misconduct because it was not done intentionally," Lilly said, noting that the law requires a person to know he's not complying with a mandate for it to be called misconduct.
"This isn't so much about Lilly and Stepien as it is about voters being cheated out of the people they voted to put in office. It's anti-American," Lilly said.
Since the vote to oust Lilly and Stepien, the board has been running school district business with five members instead of the usual seven. There has been no move to appoint two interim board members to replace them.