NEW CASTLE Sunshine Law violation alleged
Six residents want a judge to void any decisions made in the private meeting.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Six city residents contending the New Castle School board violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law are suing the school district.
Rosemary Henderson, Lena Luongo, Joseph Sparano, Philip Conti and David and Andrea Slack filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court contending the school board violated the state's open-meetings law by taking action during a private meeting and not disclosing the reason for the private session.
Pennsylvania's Sunshine Law requires school boards and municipalities to hold advertised meetings, discussions and votes in public. Only personnel, real estate and litigation can be discussed in private, closed-door meetings or executive sessions.
The residents are asking the court to declare that the school board violated the law and to void any decisions made by the school board during the violation. They are also asking the district to pay their attorney fees.
James D. Direnzo of Pittsburgh, who is representing the six residents, could not be reached to comment Thursday afternoon.
School District Solicitor Charles Sapienza said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit. He said he will read it and then meet with school board members.
The suit contends the six residents were "adversely affected by the actions of the New Castle School Board that violated provisions of the Sunshine Act."
They allege the violation occurred after a special school board meeting July 8 when board members adjourned to a private meeting "to discuss employee matters," court documents said.
The private meeting included board members, administrators, architect David Esposito of Eckles Architecture and Lou Londino of Deklewa & amp; Sons, a construction management firm working on the new high school.
The school district is constructing a new school for grades nine through 12 and recently decided to see if it was feasible to add grades seven and eight to the building.
According to the lawsuit, Henderson asked more information about the meeting in light of the attendance of the construction manager and architect. She was told by Sapienza that "any discussion regarding the inclusion/combination of grades seven and eight with the newly proposed senior high school was employee-related," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit contends that the district did not properly announce the reason for the executive session when it stated it was for "employee matters."
The lawsuit also contends that the architect and the construction manager presented the board with estimated costs and potential reimbursement figures for the revised project and that board members "authorized and/or otherwise approved the revised plans for submission to the Pennsylvania Department of Education during the July 8, 2002, executive session."