In a recent discussion with a newish New Rochelle school board member the subject of one of the most memorable school board meetings of all time came up.
It was May 6, 2014. Jeffrey Hastie had delivered a speech, making two motions to investigate and seek to remove David Lacher from the school board over financial malfeasance. Full disclosure, I wrote the articles Hastie is referencing and I wrote the speech and the two motions.
5-term school board member and then-Vice President got the floor to respond to Hastie’s motion with prepared remarks on “poor judgement”, initially focused on Lacher but suddenly veering into a brutal take down of Hastie.
I was running Hastie’s campaign for school board at the time (to my later regret) and this was not helpful. In fact, most observers assumed it was the nail in the coffin for Hastie.
I dug up the video and speech. Having done all the work I figure why not share it. So for those who never saw the most merciless dissection of one board member by another we present it for your viewing pleasure:
I will not be supporting Mr. Hastie’s motion. However, make no mistake, I do not support the actions of any board member who in my opinion exercises poor judgement. While I and several other board colleagues believe that Mr. Lacher exercised poor judgement in the way he handled his health insurance obligations to the school district, he has not committed an offense which requires his removal as board president or resignation from this Board of Education. From the standpoint of district finances, it is important to note that the school district lost no money as a result of Mr. Lacher’s actions. For me, the issue that I was concerned with was intent. I am satisfied that Mr. Lacher never intended to abandon his personal financial oblication to the district. In fact, as of today, he has no overdue payments. Further, according to Ms. Amorello, our district treasurer, the district has had circumstances where payments were received late and personnel work to recoup monies owed and no one in her recollection has ever been charged interest on overdue payments. It is also noteworthy to mention that Mr. Lacher has publicy apolgized and expressed what I believe is sincere remorse for his actions. After a stellar career of 22 years serving this district, I can only imagine the humiliation that he and his family are experiencing. again, I believe that removal proceedings are unwarranted and would create nothing more than an unnecessary public spectacle. I am aware that this episode has shaken the confidence of some members of our community in this Board of Education, and I do think moving forward that our internal controls in various areas must be reviewed strengthened so the community is assured that the operations side of our district is well managed. While Mr. Lacher was the subject of this motion, I do believe we have been very tolerant of the poor judgement and behavior exhibited by another member of this board. Make no mistake, I want to be perfectly clear, I do not excuse the poor judgement of any board member but I do believe that the community has a right to know the environment in which we have been operating. Those of you who know me know that I have never, ever spoken against anyone during my time in office. However, I find myself presently unable to remain silent. Mr. Hastie, your actions in the last several years have been antagonistic, and have interfered with and have compromised the board’s effectivess and ability to function as a working leadership team. You have shown a disregard for executive session and you have certainly breached confidentiality. You have chosen the portions of executive session that you unilaterally decided the public had a right to know and you have shared them to perhaps further your own agenda and portray yourself as a “champion of the people”. You have also violated principles of board governance by unilaterally deciding to publicly share emails between board members, and most recently one that our FOIL officer determined should not be disclosed. Your behavior has caused a climate of mistrust. Several board members including myself are apprehensive and reluctant to speak freely in executive session. Through the years you have shared information that has interfered with the deliberative process of administration and the board. I know that several people on the board have tried to counsel and work with you to change behaviors as they felt that you could contribute positively. You showed no remorse and instead continued your divisive actions. Despite members of this community wondering why our feelings were never made public, it was a conscious choice, certainly my choice. We have deliberately chosen not to publicly discuss your behavior because quite frankly, it is a distraction from the important work that this board must do. New Rochelle deserves a Board of Education that functons as a leadership team, asking questions, agreeing to disagree but in the end understanding that solutions to problems are implemented as a team positively working together to provide the very best educational opportunities for every child in this city.
Here is the relevant video with time stamps.
BOE C.O.W MEETING 5/6/14/ PUBLIC MEETING ON 2014-15 PROPOSED SCHOOL BUDGET A
BOE C.O.W MEETING 5/6/14/ PUBLIC MEETING ON 2014-15 PROPOSED SCHOOL BUDGET B
Deidre Polow Speech begins at 25:08