The Putnam Examiner

Shake-up on Mahopac School Board After “Chubby-Wubby” Comment

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mahopac prezMahopac School Board President, Raymond Cote, has resigned following public outcry about derogatory remarks he made about a parent at the end of an April 8 Board of Education meeting.

At a May 13 board meeting, attorney for the district, Ralph DeMarco, announced the resignation of Cote, effective immediately, and read a statement from the former school board president, who did not attend the meeting.

“I would like to apologize for my choice of words after the close of the board meeting on April 8, 2014, which are regretful. My words were inappropriate and do not reflect my feelings or attitudes. I will strive to regain the trust and respect of the community,” said the statement from Cote.

At the April 8 meeting, Cote referred to a parent and volunteer for the district over an open mic as “chubby wubby” and stated that “she gets fatter and fatter at every meeting, she really does.” The statement was later removed from the video recording of the meeting that appeared on the district website and replaced with a shortened version.

Cote also has withdrawn his candidacy for reelection for board of education, which means there are now two candidates running for three open seats. DeMarco explained that ballots with Cote’s name, which have already been printed, will still be used, but write-in candidates for the open seat will be accepted. In the meantime, Vice President, Michael Sclafani, will fill Cote’s vacant seat as president.

Two Mahopac residents Brian Mahoney and Roger Bell have come forward to run for the seat left open by Cote. Sclafani and incumbent Leslie Mancuso are seeking reelection and names are on the ballot.

Although the announcement of Cote’s resignation, which wasn’t made until more than an hour into the meeting, was met with massive applause from the parents and students in attendance, many still chastised the board for not taking action against Cote, with some comparing the incident to the recent scandal involving racist comments by Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.

“The NBA did not take five weeks to issue a statement that said that the statements of intolerance were wrong. And just as importantly, the NBA didn’t wait to see whether or not somebody resigned first to actually say it was wrong,” said one Mahopac High School teacher, who questioned if the issue would ever have been addressed by the Board if Cote had not resigned.

Several Mahopac High School students pointed out the hypocrisy of the board for not holding trustees to the same standards of behavior as they hold students, who face punishment if they don’t abide by the district’s 41 page code of conduct.

“As an adult, you have the ability to be a role model for us kids. As a board member you have the responsibility to be a role model for us kids,” said freshman, Kasey Bell. “When these role models aren’t practicing what they’re preaching, it is difficult to tell where the maturity truly lies.”

The comments made by Cote at the April 8 meeting were brought to the attention of the public and the board by resident Roger Garcia, who was astonished when no action was taken immediately after the remark was made. Garcia arranged a meeting with Superintendent Thomas Manko, where he asked for the resignation of Cote, as well as of Leslie Mancuso and Earle Bellows, who heard the comments but did nothing.

Garcia’s wife, Carole, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to reveal that a Mahopac detective visited her home on Friday night and that there is an open criminal investigation against her husband for harassment, as a result of his conversation with Manko. She stated that the complaint came from an anonymous source, but believes that the board of education is somehow involved.

“It’s not a stretch to assume the complaint came from someone up on this stage tonight,” she stated.

“I was always under the impression that the people elected to the school board were entrusted to represent the interests of the children and the taxpayers of the district,” she continued. “Instead, some people on the board are using their position to speak poorly for people, cuddle up to one another, and to try and intimidate, harass, and retaliate against respected members of the community when their poor behavior is brought to light.”

Later in the week, a report from The Journal News revealed the investigation against Roger Garcia has been closed with the complaint being dropped.

Carole Garcia was not the only resident who accused the board of defending itself and covering up the issue. Resident Fred Reger, asked the board directly if there was an active attempt to keep the incident quiet and referred to the board as a “clique”.

He stated that he was less concerned about the lack of disciplinary action, and appalled at the dismissive way in which the comment was made by Cote and accepted by the trustees who heard it said.

“Of equal importance is the fact that the comment is not only insulting, but it was highly dismissive…how do we know that any concern is not ignored? How do we know that any member in here that asks a legitimate question is not dismissed behind closed doors as a jerk, or fool, or whatever,” said Reger.

Reger stated that anybody who knew about the comments or attempted to cover up the incident should resign as well, as they can no longer be trusted.

Although the board accepted public comment, they refused to make any further statements on the resignation of Cote at that time. They did, however, release a statement accepting the apology for Cote and condemning his actions. This statement, as well as a separate email containing Cote’s apology, were sent out to district parents on Tuesday afternoon.


David Propper contributed to this report

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