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Residents sue school board

By Fritz Mayer
August 6, 2014

NARROWSBURG, NY — A group of residents of Narrowsburg, most of whom live very close to the vacant Narrowsburg school building, filed a lawsuit against the Sullivan West School Board over the proposed sale of the school. The lawsuit also names Joan Buto, the woman who wants to purchase the school and open a drug and alcohol rehab center.

The group of 14 residents includes former town clerk Kathy Michell and Art Hawker, a longtime law enforcement official and firefighter. Joining the residents in the lawsuit are Brendan and Kathy Weiden, the couple who also made an offer to buy the school to use it, in part, as a community center.

The lawsuit says the school district violated its “fiduciary obligation” to taxpayers by agreeing to sell the school to Buto. The suit also says the school board, “failed to conduct a fair, impartial and transparent process.”

The lawsuit specifically says the sale of the 14-acre property on Kirk’s Road, which was part of the deal, was not handled properly.

The residents also accuse the school district of violating New York State’s open meetings law by not correctly advertising two special meetings in June at which the sale of the school was discussed.

Further, the residents say the district violated the New York State Environmental Quality Review law because it failed to consider the adverse impacts of increased traffic, increase in the use of municipal water and sewer, and the adverse impact on community character.

The lawsuit asks the Sullivan County Supreme Court to declare the contract between Buto and the school district null and void.

Dr. Nancy Hackett, the superintendent of the school district, was away on vacation, and could not immediately be reached for comment.

An email sent to Joan Buto had not received a response by press time.

The sale of the school, which has been closed for nearly a decade because of declining enrollment, has sparked a sharp response from the community, with more than 300 residents signing letters to the state comptroller’s office, asking for an investigation of the sale.

Hackett has previously said that, in agreeing to sell the school to Buto, the board was seeking to get the best deal for taxpayers.