A hearing will be held later this month that could lead to the ouster of a Carmel Board of Education member.
During a Dec. 19 meeting, the school board voted 5-2 to hold a hearing that could lead to school board member John Curzio’s removal from the school governing body. Board president Greg Riley said before the vote Curzio was being accused of two official misconduct charges. Once the hearing is complete, the board will weigh the facts and the conclusion reached by the hearing officer before they decide what action to take against Curzio, who is a college student and lives in Stormville. Curzio, a Carmel High School alum, actually was the top vote-getter when he ran two years ago, ousting an incumbent board member in the process.
Curzio (who was told by Superintendent of Schools Andy Irvin he was allowed to vote on a matter involving him) and school board member James Reese were the two members to vote against holding a hearing.
In a Dec. 19 letter from Riley to the district clerk, he requested two official misconduct charges be brought against Curzio. Riley claimed at a Nov. 21 meeting, Curzio used district resources and acted in neglect of his official duties because he encouraged voters to turn down the Dec. 11 bond proposals during the meeting. The other charge comes from a Dec. 5 meeting where Curzio read a letter to the editor written by a Kent resident against the capital projects and said he agreed with the letter writer’s statement.
Curzio has retained Michael Sussman as his attorney to represent him.
“On December 19, the Board of Education propounded two charges which claim that Mr. Curzio used public resources to support his position, more specifically, claiming that his speech at two Board meetings violated Article VIII(1) of the New York Constitution,” Sussman said in a statement. “We strongly disagree. Mr. Curzio’s advocacy was squarely protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, did not violate the New York State Constitution, did not represent any form of official misconduct and must be protected lest our democracy will be imperiled.”
In a follow up interview, Sussman called the action against Curzio “outrageous overreach.” Whether or not a person agrees with Curzio’s position against the bond, Sussman said he behaved in a professional matter when informing the public about his thoughts on the bonds.
“It’s really shocking that this is what we’ve come to here and I’m very disturbed by it,” Sussman said.
The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17 tentatively and is open to the public. Curzio also defended himself at the Dec. 19 meeting. When telling residents to vote against the bond propositions last month, Curzio said he was solely speaking for himself and not the rest of the board when he made those comments. Before talking about the bond vote, he said he prefixed by stressing his statements were his own opinion.
“The comments were my own comments, obviously my own personal comments,” Curzio said during the Dec. 19 meeting.
Curzio, whose term ends June 30, 2019, has been at odds with most of the board during his tenure. The arguing was ratcheted up after the school bond vote worth $85 million was voted down, with Curzio one of the most vocal opponents to the capital plan. Leading up to the vote, he said it was too much money for taxpayers to shoulder.
Riley, when approached after the meeting, said he couldn’t discuss the action taken against Curzio on advice of legal counsel. Vice president Richard Kreps also declined comment on advice of legal counsel.
Kreps, who is the longest serving member of the board, said this is the first time in his tenure a hearing has been held that could lead to a board member’s removal.