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COMMISSIONER ASKED TO DECIDE IF PLEASANTVILLE BOARD MEMBERS SHOULD STEP ASIDE

Parents and community leaders in Pleasantville are demanding that two Pleasantville school board members arrested on corruption charges last month resign in order to restore public confidence in the district.Despite this outcry, the Board members refuse to step aside, prompting ELC to ask State Education Commissioner to investigate and take action.

In early September, Pleasantville Board President James Pressley and member Rafael Velez were among 12 men - 11 of them public officials - arrested and charged with attempted extortion in an ongoing federal corruption investigation. Authorities charge Pressley and Valez accepted cash payments in exchange for arranging insurance contracts with the Pleasantville district.

In an October 3rd letter to Commissioner Lucille Davy, Abbott Counsel David Sciarra stated that while the Pressley and Valez are entitled to a presumption of innocence on the criminal charges, their continued presence on the Pleasantville Board is a serious distraction and raises concerns about the Board’s ability to effectively perform its duties. As a result, ELC is asking the Commissioner to investigate the following:

  • Whether there is sufficient evidence that Pressley and Velez used their positions for personal gain.
  • Whether the alleged criminal conduct of the two and their continued presence on the board has and will continue to impair the ability of the board to function properly and execute its duties in a timely and responsible manner.
  • Whether their continued presence on the board undermines public and community confidence in the board's ability to act in the best interest of Pleasantville's schoolchildren

ELC also requests the Commissioner take appropriate administrative action to ensure the Board can operate effectively in the future, "including but not limited to the suspension of temporary removal of Pressley and Velez," until such time as the criminal matters are fully resolved. ELC notes that the Commissioner has the responsibility, under the Abbott v. Burke rulings and the Annual State Budget Law, to take "any" action necessary to ensure proper use of all funds in Abbott districts and to make sure the districts are operating effectively and efficiently.

Residents, board members and some political leaders have also called for Pressley and Velez’s resignation.

Prepared: October 15, 2007