The state School Ethics Commission has found that former Board of Education President Daniel Woska violated a section of the School Ethics Act in connection with the termination of former Interim Superintendent Melindo A. Persi's employment.
The commission, in a decision rendered last month, dismissed three out of four parts of the complaint Persi filed against Woska, but upheld the portion that charged Woska took action outside the scope of his duties as a board member by unilaterally issuing a Rice notice to Persi before he was sworn in as president of the board.
A Rice notice is issued to a public employee if his or her employment is to be discussed at an official meeting of a public governing body.
Persi claimed Woska, who already held a board seat, surreptitiously worked to have a Rice notice issued to the superintendent even though he had yet to be sworn in as the board's president.
Woska contacted Business Administrator James Edwards and instructed him to issue the notice without contacting the current board president or board counsel at the time. Woska did speak "in passing" about Persi's employment with Kim V. Terebush, Michael Pifko and Vicky Leone, who had been newly elected but not yet sworn in, the decision stated. Out of the group, only Terebush remains a member of the board.
At the board's reorganization meeting where Woska was sworn in as president and the three new members were sworn in and took majority control of the board, they dismissed Persi and installed Mary Ann Ceres as superintendent.
The commission, in its ruling, found that Woska "lost sight of his duty to recognize that authority rests with the board," referring to the issuance of a Rice notice to the superintendent.
"Moreover, the Commission finds that Mr. Woska’s unilateral action to direct the issuance of the Rice notice not only had the potential to compromise the Board, but, arguably, did compromise the Board in that it set off a chain of events which resulted in litigation both before the Commissioner of Education and before the Commission," the decision stated. "The Commission finds that this is precisely the type of action which the Code of Ethics for School Board Members was intended to proscribe."
The commission recommended a penalty of reprimand to Woska.
The dismissal of Persi has also resulted in the award of a civil judgment against the school district.
Last March, Persi was awarded $21,000 since the board was found to have violated a clause in Persi's contract that required 30 days notice before dismissal.
Editor's note: A copy of the commission's decision is attached to this article near the accompanying photograph.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Woska was not yet installed as president of the board at the time of the events described. A previous version said Woska was not a member of the board in any capacity.