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Rye Mayor Sack Comments on Teacher Mess

Rye Mayor Joe Sack commented last night at city council on the Rye teacher mess:

From Joe Sack, Mayor:

On Monday morning, school board member Ed Fox made certain allegations directly about me and my wife, Kerri Ann Law, as well as about Richard Slack and his wife, Laura Slack, and indirectly about all of the members of the city council and school board, including that:  certain re-assigned teachers “have a different lawyer [that is, a lawyer different than Kerri Ann Law, who represents another re-assigned teacher, Mrs. Topol] who cannot deliver a city council seat or some other benefit to a board member or the board member’s family members.”

Essentially, this is an allegation that Kerri and I delivered a city council seat to Richard, in exchange for a settlement in the Topol case, delivered by Laura.

This is an outrageous allegation.  This allegation has absolutely no basis in fact.  This allegation is untrue.  I categorically deny this allegation.

My wife and I are the parents of children who attend Rye public schools, two of whom were taught by Mrs. Topol.  Early on, my wife and I showed our support for Mrs. Topol and, along with other class parents, signed a letter to the school board, questioning the school board’s communication regarding, and investigation of, the matter, and asking that Mrs. Topol be returned to teaching.

Subsequently, Kerri, an attorney, became co-counsel representing Mrs. Topol.  I never had any communications with Kerri about the substance of her representation of her client, and I certainly never had any communications with Kerri – express, implied or otherwise – about exchanging a settlement in the Topol matter for a council seat for Richard Slack.

Following the elections last fall, I spoke with a number of Rye residents to gauge their interest in serving on the city council, including Richard Slack.  I had been impressed with Richard for some time as a result of his public comments at city council meetings.  However, Richard indicated that his family and professional responsibilities were too much.

Councilman-elect Terry McCartney then independently decided to reach out to Richard, and solicited him to consider serving on the city council.  As a result of Terry’s conversations with Richard, Richard indicated that he would make the time to serve on the city council.  The other members of the city council also then had the opportunity to meet and speak with Richard, among other candidates, and a consensus developed to appoint Richard as a city council member.

I never had any communications with Richard Slack or Laura Slack about Mrs. Topol’s case, and I certainly never had any communications with Richard or Laura – express, implied or otherwise – about exchanging a settlement in the Topol matter for a council seat for Richard Slack.

On January 8, at the first city council meeting of the year, all five members of the city council unanimously voted to appoint Richard Slack, as well as Richard Mecca, to fill the two city council vacancies.  These were not appointments by me alone as mayor.  These were appointments by all remaining members of the city council, as per the city charter.

On Monday, at a public meeting of the school board, Mr. Fox made his allegations.  Following his allegations, the school board voted unanimously, with Mr. Fox abstaining, to approve a settlement with Mrs. Topol.  As per the school district’s statement, Mrs. Topol will consequently be returned to teaching.

As a parent, I am pleased by this outcome, and I am very happy for Mrs. Topol.

As an elected official, however, I am extremely disappointed that Mr. Fox would make such false and unfounded allegations in connection with the settlement.  I am calling upon Mr. Fox to retract his allegations.

Furthermore, there was no conflict of interest or even an appearance of a conflict of interest between my vote to appoint Richard Slack to the city council, and the separate and unrelated confidential representation of a client, not by me but by my spouse, in a matter involving separate and unrelated circumstances to which I am not privy, before a separate and unrelated board under adverse circumstances, with no votes or settlements pending on that matter before that board.

Once Richard was appointed to the city council, I also do not believe that there was a conflict of interest between Laura’s vote to approve a subsequent settlement with Mrs. Topol, and Richard’s prior appointment to the city council.  And to the extent that some may view this as the appearance of a conflict, it seems to me that the appearance was mitigated through the public disclosure of Richard’s position on the city council, and the public disclosure of Mrs. Topol’s representation by Kerri Law, at the time of the school board’s public vote on the settlement.

None of us can help but observe that the re-assigned teacher cases have engendered much passion, and even much anger and bitterness in the community.  That is unfortunate, and I hope that all of the teacher matters can be successfully resolved.

But it is also unfortunate that Mr. Fox and other Rye residents would seemingly allow their frustration with the teacher cases to result in the making of baseless and damaging allegations.  However, I also hope and believe that we can move forward from this episode.

On a personal note, I must say that I am extremely proud of my wife, who is an excellent attorney, for stepping up to the plate and representing Mrs. Topol.  And I regret that she has been wrongly connected to these allegations and insinuations, simply for doing what I see to be a good deed. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Well Mr. Fox – I think it’s your move now.

    For THE RECORD (and for others who don’t know me) my name is Ted Carroll of Forest Avenue in Rye. I’m a Rye lifer. I always blog comment as ‘tedc’ and occasionally submit essays under my full name. MyRye’s publisher knows me and if you’d like to know a little bit more about me, my firm’s web site is here: http://nosonlawen.com/

  2. There’s two things here I don’t understand:
    1) What allegations is Sack referring to? From watching the video and reading Fox’s statement, all I see is his raising the appearance of impropriety that could bring into question the legitimacy of the board’s actions, and his motion for Mrs. Slack to recuse herself in order to mitigate that risk. I don’t see any actual allegation.
    2) How can Sack deny the appearance of impropriety? Personally I would have been happier if he’d acknowledge the potential appearance of impropriety while assuring us that there was no actual wrongdoing. Denying it altogether leaves a bad taste.

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