NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- It would appear that New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak does not think much of CBS 2 News veteran reporter Lou Young whom he crudely disparaged in a school board meeting last night.
Calling Young a "bottom feeder", Organisciak engaged the board in an extended rant about the media coverage of the Isaac E. Young Middle School football hazing scandal. The Urban Dictionary defines bottom feeder as "A low or despicable person who profits from the misfortunes of others."
The Isaac hazing story was first broken on Talk of the Sound. CBS 2 News was the first major media outlet to cover the story. CBS 2 News also aired an exclusive interview with the mother and child at the center of the attempted cover up by school officials. The story has been picked up by more than a dozen other media outlets, among them the Journal News, News 12, and the New York Post.
In an executive session, called ostensibly to discuss a "personnel matter", Organisciak told board members "Lou Young is a known bottom feeder", sources tell Talk of the Sound.
Organisciak was angry after a prepared statement he read at the public board meeting was challenged by your intrepid reporter.
In the written statement which Organisciak read aloud at both the Committee of the Whole Meeting and the Regular Meeting of the school board, the Superintendent claimed the New Rochelle police had conducted a full investigation.
This claim has been repeatedly, flatly denied by the New Rochelle Police Department since last week when the New Rochelle Board of Education put out such a statement in response to media coverage of the hazing incident. An initial, false statement distributed to media outlets claimed that the police had done an investigation and determined that nothing criminal had occurred. A second statement repeated the claim that police had conducted an investigation but corrected the false statement that all Isaac parents had been notified of the hazing incident by letter and phone calls home. Only the parents of the 33 members of the football team were contacted.
New Rochelle Police Detective Captain Joseph Schaller, spokesperson for the department, was interviewed by Talk of the Sound, News 12, the Journal News and CBS 2 News, among others, often more than once. In each interview, Schaller repeated that the police did not conduct an investigation because the report they received from the school was about "towel-whipping" and the police do not investigate reports of "towel-whipping" in boys locker rooms.
In the same executive session, Organisciak responded to my statement to the board repeating what Schaller has been telling the media for a week by falsely stating that I had said that Schaller did not personally investigate the matter. Organisciak was challenged by board members after making this false assertion.
Under the New York State Open Meeting Law, executive sessions may only be used to discuss certain topics and the discussions can only cover the specific topic stated as the reason for going into executive session during the public meeting. There are eight specific topics that may be discussed in executive session.
Last night, Board President Chrisanne Petrone stated that the board was going into executive session to discuss a personnel matter then proceeded to allow discussion other than personnel matters including Organisciak's impromptu media criticism and several other topics. Each of these discussions was a clear violation of New York State law.
In a presentation last year in Larchmont, Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, stated that "A public body cannot schedule an Executive Session in advance." A motion must be made during a properly convened public meeting to declare what the body wishes to discuss in executive session. The New Rochelle Board of Education regularly holds executive session meetings before regularly scheduled board meetings. They did this just last month to receive an audit report.
Freeman also stated that the word "confidential" does not mean anything in the context of executive session. Many elected officials in New Rochelle are wrongly under the impression than anything discussed in executive session is, de facto, confidential. Freeman said this incorrect interpretation has been actively promoted by the New York State Department of Education. In fact, said Freeman, something can only be confidential by statute. For example, medical information about a person is confidential under the HIPPA statute. Members of a public body are free to publicly discuss anything discussed in executive session unless specifically prohibited under the law.
The New Rochelle Board of Education routinely flouts the New York State Open Meeting Law and has been doing so for years. Last night was just another example of New Rochelle board members violating the same New York State laws they swore to uphold when they were sworn in as board members.
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