Mattituck school board votes to leave seat vacant

The Mattituck School Board will operate a member shy for the next year.
Although at least four people expressed an interest in the vacancy created by former vice president Debra Cahill’s recent resignation, the board voted 4 to 2 Thursday night to leave the seat open. Earlier, the board voted 5 to 1 against member Douglas Cooper’s resolution to hold a special election
Board members seemed surprised at the 4-2 vote in favor of leaving the post vacant after vice president Charles Anderson made the motion in the process of eliminating options other than appointing someone to the position. Board member Douglas Cooper made the first motion in favor of holding an election for the empty seat, but that motion was defeated in a 5-1 vote.
Since the last board meeting July 15, at least four people had expressed interest in the position They include Barbara Taylor, Rob DiGregorio and former members Joan Ferris and Lynne Krauza. Ms. Krauza lost her seat on the board in last May’s election.
President Gerard Diffley said that at least one other person had also expressed interest in the position, but had not committed to run.
Prior to deciding to leave the seat empty, the board was divided over the best method of selecting a candidate. Several members said that they were uncomfortable making a decision when they didn’t know all the candidates. Mr. Cooper adamantly proposed that an election would be the only democratic way.
“It’s the American way,” he said, but board member Janique Nine countered, “It’s a waste of money.”
Board members estimated that a special election could cost between $4,000 and $6,00. With the time constraints involved in gathering petitions and giving public notice, an election would be unlikely before late September or possibly October. The new member would only serve through June of 2011.
“Democracy is not cheap. I believe it is the right of the public to choose,” said Mr. Cooper.
The vote to leave the seat vacant garnered won with the support of Mr. Cooper, Ms. Nine, Mr. Diffley and William Gatz, who just began his term in the seat Ms. Krauza had held. Two weeks ago the board rejected a call to move Ms. Krauza into the open seat.
Mr. Diffley said that he is open to the possibility of revisiting whether it would be better to appoint someone, but only if that  did not obligate the board to fill the position.
“I still struggle with it,” said Mr. Gatz, who wavered several times before casting the deciding vote.
“I’m very surprised by this,” said Mr. Anderson, who added that he had brought the motion to the floor simply to weed through the board’s options for filling the vacant seat.
The board made their decision under the watchful eye of a half-dozen community members.
“Several of the candidates happen to be women,” said Lynn Summers, who has lived in Mattituck for 42 years. “I hope those who were thinking of making a commitment do so in the future.”
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