For years, longtime Carmel Board of Education member Richard Kreps has made it crystal clear what he thought and how he felt about issues pertaining to the school district.
Last week, in light of a $25.4 million bond that was voted down by less than 200 votes, Kreps, the board vice president, didn’t hold back how he felt a fellow board member and the town supervisor in one of the municipalities that’s included in the district affected by the final outcome. Carmel school board member John Curzio and Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming were two prominent people to speak out against the bond, which Kreps believes might’ve influenced the final tally.
“I certainly don’t think it was (Fleming’s) place and I certainly don’t think it was (Curzio’s) place,” said Kreps, who supported the bond.
The bond would’ve made improvements to the district’s facilities. One aspect of the bond, a new bus garage located in Kent, had opponents and Kent officials concerned because the proposed parcel would be removed from the tax rolls if the district bought it. At a recent Kent town board meeting, Curzio and Kent town board members, including Fleming, voiced concerns.
Kreps, who noted that Curzio was only 3-years-old when he was first elected to the board in 1999, said Curzio has done “some pretty outrageous things” and isn’t informed on how a school system is run.
“He doesn’t know anything about a school district, about budgets, about bonds, about anything,” Kreps said. “And he’s a foolish young man and he’s decided to go out and convince people through rhetoric, which is totally ridiculous.”
He slammed Curzio for having a booth at Kent Town Day last month that dispensed information about the bond and attending Kent board meetings where he shunned the bond proposal. (The Carmel school system also had a booth at Kent Town Day about the bond.)
When a bond last December failed, the board held a removal hearing against Curzio, arguing he violated New York State education law by advocating against it at public school meetings. The removal hearing officer found Curzio committed wrongdoing, but the school board opted not to remove him. As a response, Curzio claimed victory in his battle with the rest of the board.
When asked if the board might try to hold another removal hearing against Curzio, Kreps said there were no plans to. But he still felt that Curzio violated the spirit of education law by voicing his opinion on the bond.
When re-litigating the removal hearing held last year, Kreps said the board was made out to be “ogres” and “bullies” against Curzio, but they acted appropriately. When asked if he thought Curzio was a bully, Kreps said “in a way, absolutely.”
“For him to turnaround and come in as a ‘late come Johnny’ and come in here and think that he can say whatever the hell he wants, I feel bad for him going forward in his life,” Kreps said. “I think he’s made a big mistake in terms of his mentality, I think he’s wrong and I think people are wrong to listen to him.”
In an interview, Curzio stood by his actions leading up to the bond but declined to respond directly to Kreps’ insults. Curzio said he wanted to get the word out to voters about the bond so people were informed before they casted a ballot.
“I know he gets upset when I speak out,” Curzio said of Kreps. “I would just remind him what I said when their removal attempt failed; that I would not be silenced or intimidated by the Carmel school board or by anybody else and I would continue to speak by mind.”
But Kreps didn’t just blast Curzio. He also lashed out at Fleming, who spoke out against the bond at a recent board meeting. He called it “sad” that Kent elected officials have come out against the school system.
Kreps also said he can’t see Fleming in the role as county executive, a post she is currently running for against incumbent MaryEllen Odell, because of the way she deals with the school system.
“For her to come out against people like me and other things is despicable,” Kreps said. “And she’s running for county executive. If she’s going to do what she does in the county what she does in the Town of Kent, I think that would be a huge problem for the people in the county of Putnam.”
Fleming said she doesn’t believe she advocated against the bond, but rather she informed town residents that Kent could lose a valuable piece of property off of the tax rolls. Further, Fleming scoffed at the notion that she came out against school board members or the district, as Kreps suggested.
“I never advocated against a bus garage, I just said that with us having limited areas to develop that perhaps there was another location that could’ve been worked on,” Fleming said. “I have never voted against a school budget.”
“My job is to protect my residents,” Fleming added.