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Petition: School board president threatened members

December 15, 2012
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - Gloversville school board President Peter Semione told other board members he would "bring down" any of them if they tried to reverse his decision about the transfer of a teacher, according to a petition filed by some school board members seeking to remove Semione.

The petition alleges Semione said "I make all the decisions on the school board, no one else," and "I will throw you off the board and have you dragged through the streets for all to see."

"If you dare challenge me and try to overturn my decision, I will kick your [expletive]," the petition alleges Semione told one board member.

The petition, dated Nov. 21 and filed with the state Education Department, seeks the removal of Semione from his position as a member of the Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education on the grounds "that he is guilty of willful violations of law and neglect of duty," the petition states.

Semione denies the allegations in the petition.

The petition includes five signed affidavits from board members Frank Carangelo, Joseph Andrews, Polly Peck, Michael Hauser and Robert Curtis. Board members E. Lynn Brown, Jean LaPorta and Richard Carlson were not included in the petition.

At an Aug. 21 school board meeting, members of the public expressed concern about the transfer of high school music teacher Maggie Savage to the middle school, the petition says. People asked questions, but board members had no explanations, the petition says.

According to the petition, in the days immediately after the meeting several members communicated privately and expressed a desire to arrange a special meeting before the start of the school year to seek more explanations from district administration about the transfer.

On Aug. 30, Carangelo, the board's vice president, met with then-Acting Superintendent Clifford Moses to arrange the meeting for Sept. 5, the petition says.

According to the petition, the next day Semione telephoned Carangelo yelling in an "aggressive and loud manner," indicating his displeasure with Carangelo and other members of the board for getting involved in the issue of the transfer.

"He further stated 'that he had something on all of us' (meaning other board members) and we were 'all going to be put in our place.' He further indicated that board member Carangelo should 'get his son in law to stop causing trouble if he wanted to keep his job as coach,'" according to the petition.

Carangelo's son-in-law is a tennis coach at the high school.

According to the petition, on the same day, Semione made a call to Andrews and began to yell in an "aggressive and threatening manner" for getting involved.

The petition says Semione made other statements to Andrews, including: "I run the [expletive] show; I make all the decisions on the school board, no one else; you are not allowed to have any communication with any other board member without my approval, do you [expletive] understand that; you are not allowed to send e-mails to any board member without checking with me first and you will include me in all e-mails to anyone, do you [expletive] get it; if you dare challenge me and try to overturn my decision, I will kick your [expletive]; I will ruin you and your whole family and see you all burn; I will throw you off the board and have you dragged through the streets for all to see; you have no [expletive] business asking questions about Maggie's transfer, my word is final; and I have all the proof I need on everyone on the board and will use my blackmail files to expose anyone that dares to try and challenge me and overturn my decision."

The petition says Andrews felt "genuinely threatened and intimidated" by the statements from Semione.

That day, Semione engaged in another telephone conversation with Peck regarding the teacher's transfer, the petition says.

According to the petition, Semione made several belligerent and threatening statements to Peck, including "that he would 'bring down' anyone on the board who wanted to reverse the transfer decision, that he was the president of the board, it was 'his board' and if anyone dares challenge him he would 'turn them into the state.'"

The petition states Semione further said he had a blackmail list and would "expose" everyone, especially Carangelo. In the conversation, the petition says, he also called Carangelo dishonest and said he planned to expose him "for the slimy bastard that he was" and he should "watch out or his son-in-law may lose his job."

The petition states that in the same conversation, he threatened to harm Andrews.

The petition also claims Semione again called Carangelo on Sept. 1 about the issue of the transfer and stated, "if that's the way it's going to be, I'm going to bury you all."

The petition calls Semione's behavior "egregious, reprehensible and otherwise personally threatening to both board members and their families."

It also says Semione has not retracted or expressed remorse for the statements publicly or privately to the board.

Semione denied all the claims in the petition Friday.

"We have responded to the petition and we emphatically deny all that is in there," Semione said. "It is unfortunate that board members continue to place their personal agendas ahead of district business. We look forward to the commissioner's decision to come out so that the truth can be put out there."

When asked to clarify what he meant by "we," Semione said, "I am leaving it at we."

He said he will continue to fight the board's petition and for his position as president.

"My position as a board member is to advocate for the children and that is what I'm here for," Semione said.

Some board members previously said Semione violated Section 306 of the Education Law, which allows the commissioner to remove a board member for gross misconduct.

The petition says Semione's behavior "constitutes both willful violation of law, and neglect of duty each independently justifying his removal from the board."

The petition says Semione's conduct fits within the New York State Penal Law definition of aggravated harassment.

The document says Semione's continuing conduct should allow the petition to be considered "on its merits," despite the fact there is a 30-day time limit in the commissioner's regulation and Semione's conduct took place on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

In addition, the petition says the board had to seek outside counsel for assistance, contributing to the delay.

The board hired the Rose Law Firm of Little Falls at a cost of $150 per hour in October and set no cap on the number of hours he will work on the case.

Peck said Friday the board must now wait for a decision.

"We now have to just wait and see what the commissioner says," Peck said. "It is now in the state's hands, so we are all just waiting."

Andrews also confirmed Friday the next step is to wait for the commissioner's response.

"We have spoken our piece in this and now it's in the commissioner and God's hands," Andrews said. "Hopefully, there will be some justice."

The Department of Education website said a petition will not be ready for review until all of the papers in the case have been filed. The commissioner will issue a decision within six to eight months, but with hundreds of complex appeals filed each year, it is impossible to guarantee a specific date, according to the Education Department.

Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at gloversville@leaderherald.com

 
 

 

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