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May 6, 2016 12:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton School District Denies Press's Appeal Of Decision Not To Release Findings Of Investigation

Editor's Note:

Read a copy of the denial letter from the school district here.

May 10, 2016 3:37 PM

The Southampton School District has denied an appeal by The Press challenging the district’s decision not to disclose the findings of an investigation into former Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina.

In a letter dated Friday to Press Executive Editor Joseph P. Shaw, Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicholas Dyno denied The Press’s appeal of the decision not to disclose a report by a Garden City-based legal firm, Jaspan Schlesinger LLP, that details the findings of an investigation of Dr. Farina. Dr. Dyno wrote that such disclosure “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” the same reason given for the initial denial.

Following Dr. Farina’s resignation on April 15, for which he will receive a nearly $300,000 payout, The Press filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the district on April 18 that requested both the findings of the investigation into unspecified allegations made against the former superintendent and any other relevant written materials. The district denied the request the next day.

The Press submitted an appeal on April 28 to Dr. Dyno, the district’s FOIL appeals officer, which included a letter and documents to support The Press’s argument that public interest outweighs the district’s need to protect Dr. Farina’s privacy.

“The taxpayers of the Southampton School District paid Dr. Farina’s salary, paid for the investigation into the allegations against him, and paid the nearly $300,000 settlement upon his resignation from the district, which came so closely after the investigators’ findings were given to the School Board that they clearly were an element in his decision,” Mr. Shaw wrote.

Citing the legislative declaration that is part of the state’s Freedom of Information Law, he added, “Therefore, we believe strongly that the ‘people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.’”

Mr. Shaw said on Friday that, moving forward, The Press is now considering its options, which could include a lawsuit against the district seeking the information.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, has said that the courts have ruled that FOIL allows public entities to withhold information, but doesn’t mandate that they do so—so it is a choice made by the School Board, despite the district’s argument that the information is not subject to disclosure.

“When access is governed by the [Freedom of Information Law], that law is permissive—it authorizes an agency to deny access. But ordinarily it doesn’t require that a government agency withhold it,” Mr. Freeman said recently. “In this instance, I know of no law that would prohibit disclosure … unless that document contains information about a student.”

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Keep the pressure on them.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 6, 16 12:48 PM
Please pursue this. The BOE's actions are completely unacceptable. Thank you.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on May 6, 16 12:51 PM
More sketchy things going on in school districts. Between this guy and the guy Booth in Hampton Bays these schools need to be looked at very carefully especially with all the corruption that has been going on.
By turkeyloser (22), east quogue on May 6, 16 12:55 PM
If the activities in question were grounds for termination, or a resignation in lieu of an expected termination, then releasing the report findings would not be considered an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. If they do not release the findings when Farina gets another job - and he will - the School Board will be complicit in any future transgressions.

ALL future employment contracts should contain a specific clause stating that the reasons for terminations or resignations will ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on May 6, 16 1:06 PM
Public figures, especially those who have (allegedly) engaged in illegal or inappropriate conduct, WAIVE certain privacy rights by their own conduct. Hopefully The Press will seek further legal redress if the BOE does not wake up and decide to do what is right.

The board's legal counsel has probably forced them to withhold the material until a judge orders their release.

So be it.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 6, 16 1:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 6, 16 1:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
don't re -elect your board members, mic drop!
By LI native (127), LI on May 6, 16 2:03 PM
Two open seats. No incumbents running.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 6, 16 11:16 PM
Please keep the pressure on!
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 6, 16 2:26 PM
The board was not the employer of Dr Farina the taxpayer's are the employer. These local districts are getting out of hand.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 6, 16 3:34 PM
And then there is the ugly rumor about last year's student-cheating coverup that is working it's way around.
By Killerfrog (38), Southampton on May 6, 16 7:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
I heard that, too. Doesn't sound like a rumor to me. Heard it from several reliable sources. If I heard correctly, that issue might reveal some crucial missing pieces to this puzzle. However, if it is a rumor, the BOE should address this out in the open (not their forte').
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 6, 16 8:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Scandal? Seriously? Do you think it's the first time kids were caught cheating on an exam? Do you think it will be the last? It wasn't a state test or an SAT, but a routine exam, so I'm not sure what you think the cover up would be. Do you think the school board should now make public minor children's disciplinary records? Get over yourself.

By lamm (304), Southampton on May 8, 16 9:50 PM
From what I was informed, how about ten Honor Society students being given the questions of the AP Physics exam. Two involved were daughters of BOE trustees. The punishments were minor compared to the scope of the numerous infractions. Not a routine exam at all.
What do you make if that??? I am not going into detail on purpose.
Others can connect the dots on their own.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 10, 16 7:19 PM
As usual Joan, you are running your mouth about things that you know nothing about.
By Eastendnative05 (2), Southampton on May 11, 16 11:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
Several reliable sources over a course of a year. Check it out yourself.
Heard this a year ago and didn't say a thing, as I wanted to confirm, which I did last week. Seems like lots of people know, but no one is saying anything, which is so typical here.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 11, 16 12:19 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 11, 16 5:04 PM
I call bull****.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 6, 16 9:36 PM
By Eastendnative05 (2), Southampton on May 11, 16 11:54 AM
Keep fighting the good fight SHP!!!!
By baywoman (165), southampton on May 6, 16 10:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thought they worked for the taxpayers? What's going on with admin offices, real quiet???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 7, 16 5:31 AM
May as well have guys like warren booth on the Southampton school board. What's the difference. Incompetence all around. Keep the pressure on these clowns
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 7, 16 7:08 AM
The board is protecting itself from litigation. Farina gets to protect himself from this impacting future employment and and any humiliation. In other words the board is protecting the perp and themselves at the expense of the taxpayers which is the exact opposite of their charge.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 7, 16 7:14 AM
BOE as corrupt as politicians ….
By Mate (55), Southampton on May 7, 16 9:23 AM
That is not it. Sounds they they are in a major pickle. They have nothing to gain here.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 7, 16 11:30 AM
... and the students of Southampton get a real life lesson in how to get away with- er, succeed in the real world.
By loading... (601), quiogue on May 7, 16 9:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Time is long overdue to stand up and speak up!
Southampton School District, in my opinion, has reached a crossroads.
Meet the Candidates Night had a full house. Questions and answers were revealing and showed the strengths and weaknesses of both the candidates and the district. If you are displeased with how things have been handled this year, show up at the polls on May 17, and express yourself. Other messages to the BOE have been ignored. The budget and building vote cannot be.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 7, 16 10:39 AM
Please enlighten and express your concerns with others.powerwalker, toes in the water, marlinspike ,Lets go mets,, knitter, baywoman, chief1, Mr Z, powerwalker
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 8, 16 12:14 PM
I think this may set a dangerous precedent as far as confidentiality, and this situation is perceived by much of the public as rewarding bad behavior. This "golden parachute" is an affront, as most of us regular people who punch the clock every day do not get rewarded for failure. Nor do we more than more than six times our annual salary when resigning under less than honorable circumstances. So yes, I call BULL****.

As an aside, there is proposed legislation to strip public sector employees ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 8, 16 10:55 PM
Smart move by Southampton BOE. Protecting the taxpayers and safeguarding confidential information about a former employee.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on May 8, 16 5:44 PM
Meanwhile (sorry, a little off topic), Monday (May 8th) there is Tuckahoe Budget Hearing at 7:30 pm, where they will be discussing a proposition on the May ballot to sign a 5 year contract to send Tuckahoe students to Southampton High School exclusively. Usually it's decided year by year.
By hamptons2009 (12), Southampton on May 8, 16 8:09 PM
vote NO on everything the board puts up until the board comes clean on the farina debacle
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 9, 16 4:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
The Water Mill Citizens's Advisory Committee is having a meeting tonight @ 7pm @ the WMCC. BOE candidate, Jim McKenna, has been asked to speak. All invited. Come hear what he has to say.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 9, 16 4:56 PM
Well done meeting and exchange of information. Over a dozen concerned citizens. They all seemed in support of Jim McKenna for BOE and against the administration building purchase. Many commented that they might vote against the school budget, because of how things have been going on many levels.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 9, 16 10:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
People would be best served by ignoring the perpetually divisive and adversarial voice of self appointed, related, watch dogs. They don't authentically care about you. They care about themselves. "You catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar" Is still true.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 10, 16 6:12 AM
Practice what you preach.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 10, 16 11:50 AM
What makes you think I was referring to you, Joan....?
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 11, 16 6:59 AM
Or vice versa~
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 11, 16 10:37 PM
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 17, 16 8:20 AM
Exercise your right to vote today!
Vote NO on Proposition # 3- the administration building for $7,750,000.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 17, 16 9:28 AM
Whoever withholds information in this instance should not have their jobs.
Public money - public access.

This is bull s---.

These school board officials have forgotten who they are working for!
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on May 20, 16 10:54 PM
His take on last year's Adler-O'Keefe controversy

"Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina said in an email. 'In fact, we actively teach our students the importance of good character and making smart choices. Additionally, this is not representative of who we are as a district, nor of our students and staff.'"

Guess his chickens came home to roost

I believe Adler-O'Keefe was relieved of AP duties but still collects $150K a year to perform a do nothing job while, I assume a new ...more
By smacw (240), New York on May 23, 16 12:47 PM