School board V.P. hurls obscenity at opponent

After a recent candidate forum and district budget hearing, Southold’s Board of Education vice president John Crean called one of his opponents in the upcoming BOE elections an obscenity, according to a video shared with The Suffolk Times.

The incident was recorded May 8 on a cellphone by board candidate Thomas Kennedy, who is competing with Dr. Crean and current board president Paulette Ofrias for two open seats on the district’s five-person school board.

In the video, which Mr. Kennedy shared with The Suffolk Times in an email, school Superintendent Anthony Mauro is seen stepping between Dr. Crean and Mr. Kennedy. Dr. Crean looks directly into the camera and says, “I think you’re an a–hole,” adding, “We’ll see what the voters decide” as he walks away.

Credit: Thomas Kennedy

Before the meeting, Mr. Kennedy said, he approached Mr. Mauro, Mr. Crean and Ms. Ofrias to ask if they could speak when the meeting was over. The interaction intensified, he said, when he raised a concern about Ms. Ofrias’ eligibility to continue serving on the school board.

“I ran for school board last year and decided to run again, and after I made that decision, members of the community brought to my attention that Paulette Ofrias — she actually no longer resides within the school district,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I started off our discussion with talking to Paulette about her residency, but it went downhill very fast from there.”

According to the New York State School Boards Association website, school board candidates “must be residents of their districts continuously for one year … before the election.” Ms. Ofrias has served on the school board for more than a decade.

“During our discussion on May 8, Paulette stated, ‘I am in between two places.’” Mr. Kennedy wrote in a text message to The Suffolk Times Monday night. “I believe that statement needs further clarification and explanation as to where she in fact lives and is she eligible to remain on the board.”

Mr. Kennedy emailed Mr. Mauro to follow up on his concern, and received an email reply, which he shared with The Suffolk Times on Wednesday. In that reply, Mr. Mauro forwarded the following remarks from district legal counsel: “I have reviewed the recent email … pertaining to Paulette Ofrias and her residency. If you have more concrete information for the District to consider relative to your concerns feel free to forward that information to Dr. Mauro … However, at this point there has been insufficient documentation to raise a legitimate question as to Ms. Ofrias’ residency status.”

As for the interaction with Dr. Crean, district counsel wrote: “There is nothing more that needs to be done.”

Mr. Mauro also responded Wednesday to The Suffolk Times’ request for comment on that incident. That email stated: “In a private meeting after the public Board of Education meeting concluded and the auditorium was cleared, a spirited two-way exchange took place. I am sure both parties involved will move forward from this private interaction.”

Dr. Crean and Ms. Ofrias were also contacted for comment by The Suffolk Times but neither responded before press time.

The May 8 incident marks the second time Dr. Crean has been recorded on video directing an obscenity toward a community member. In August 2023, several district parents called for his resignation from the board after he got into a heated exchange with Glenn Homer, the father of a then rising sixth-grader about concerns he and others in the school community had about cutbacks in the music program.

Mr. Kennedy said getting this type of response to questions residents ask the board is disconcerting.

“This is the second time in less than a year where a member of the community has questions for the board and it’s met with this irrational, hostile response,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I want to ensure that they’re going to ensure the safety of the students, staff at the school … we should be able to ask questions of the board.”