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September 20, 2013

City School Board denies FOIL request

Members vote 6-2 in favor of keeping letter regarding health insurance from DA private

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School Board has opted not to make public a letter from the district’s attorney regarding unilateral benefit changes.

The letter, dated April 25, contains advice from the Albany-based law firm Girvin & Ferlazzo P.C. about whether the board has the legal right to switch employee health care from Plan A to Plan B without union negotiations.

Plattsburgh resident Walter Chmura requested a copy of the document under the Freedom of Information Law.

“The district needs and deserves this unilateral switch, so the public needs to know they have the opportunity to reduce taxes if their reps act in the best interest of taxpayers instead of vested interests,” he told the board during the public comment portion of last week’s meeting. 

“It is the moral and financially responsible action to take, saving $1.5 million per year, and should not be ignored any longer.”

‘WHY SECRECY?’

Later in the session, however, School Board President Leisa Boise, Vice President Tracy Rotz and members Dr. David Stone, Amelia Goerlitz, Robert Hall and Clayton Morris voted in favor of denying the FOIL request on the grounds of attorney/client privilege.

Ronald Marino and Steve Krieg voted against withholding the document; Fred Wachtmeister abstained.

This marks the third time Chmura has tried to obtain the letter; his initial request, made on June 20, was denied by the District Office.

Chmura appealed, and the School Board weighed in on the matter at its Aug. 22 meeting.

At the time, Goerlitz, Krieg, Morris and Stone were absent; Wachtmeister, Hall, Boise and Rotz voted to deny the request; and Marino voted against the denial.

The motion to deny access to the letter didn’t carry, however, as only a quorum was present, meaning it could have passed only with a unanimous decision.

“Mr Girvin already informed the district that a unilateral health-insurance switch from Plan A to Plan B could be done, and that was shared with me and in a board meeting, as well,” Chmura said at the most recent session. 

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