Marlboro tax group calls for more accountability

August 27, 2009. Mark Renolds, Mid Hudson Times

In the wake of serious criticism leveled at the Marlboro School District in a report by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on their  procedures of purchasing, claims processing, payroll controls and the need for better records of staff and substitute teacher attendance, Superintendent Ray Castellani told the public last week that the district has addressed nearly all of the points brought to light by the state.

However, a group of concerned citizens, the Marlboro Taxpayers Association, informed the board of a tip they received that someone, later identified as Intermediate School Principal Marie Toombs, had borrowed some tables and chairs for her own use at a family function. But upon returning the property on a Sunday morning, part of the newly polished floors were scratched.

Taxpayer spokesperson Carol Link spoke to the board stating the reason why the incident should rate their attention.

“This all sounds very petty, I know, but I think it is indicative of a mindset in our town that school money is a trough from which those in power can partake at will,” she said. “I am sure the person who borrowed the furniture did not give it a second thought.”

Link provided the board with pictures showing Toombs returning the school property.
Castellani said this was the first he heard about the matter, but added that it is against district policy.

“We will hold anyone responsible of breaking policy,” he said.

Castellani, however, did not indicate what measures the administration or the board will take in addressing Toombs’ actions.

Maureen Carpenick, president of the taxpayers association, expressed surprise at the school board’s lack of knowledge of the incident.

“There is some serious stuff going on,” she said. “You [school board] should know this before us. We’ve trusted and elected you and we expect you to be educated on these issues.”

Link said this incident is “minor” compared to the district’s significant lapses in procedures for the procurement of goods and services by failing to go through the required competitive bidding process, a point highlighted in the comptroller’s report.
School board member Dennis Flynn thanked the taxpayer group, “for keeping an eye out and challenging the school board and the administration. We need watchdog groups. I suggest that when interesting things arise to contact Superintendent Castellani directly and give him time to respond.”

Link said some in the tax association mistrust the administration, “since we consider you part of the problem.”

The taxpayer group made several recommendations to the board they feel will help rectify issues brought out in the report: establish a time clock for all personnel to punch in and out, ensuring people are paid for the work they do and are present for the required amount of time stipulated in their contracts; install surveillance cameras at all entrances and exits; require that no personnel have access to the schools after hours unless they punch in and out; prohibit all equipment and supplies from being removed from school grounds unless approved by the superintendent; establish the taping of all school workshops and regular meetings to be aired later on public access Channel 23.

The group said there is a whistle blower button on their blog so that people can report any matter they feel is important, without fear of retribution. This can be found at Link said the school district’s primary focus should be on education.

He meant (admin). 🙂

“We are planning to get back to the business of education of our children and enriching our children and not enriching personnel,” she said.

In a follow-up interview Link added that the tax group does not want, “to make Marie Toombs a scapegoat, but are all for preventing this from happening again.” Link said the taxpayer’s goal is to make Marlboro the best district in the state, “and keep expenses to the essentials.”

In a phone interview, Toombs said she attended last week’s school board meeting, but declined comment for this article.

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