Today’s news:

School Board 30 member reinstated

Nearly a year and a half after Teddy Kasapis was removed from his elected post on School Board 30 for allegedly coercing a colleague to vote with him in officer elections, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Golia ordered him reinstated immediately.

Astoria resident Kasapis was removed from the school board by then-Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew on Sept. 15, 1999, after an internal Board of Education investigation found Kasapis tried to coerce another newcomer to the board, Woodside resident Jeannie Basini, to vote against John Ciafone in the June 1999 officers’ election.

In his March 12 decision, Golia ruled the Board of Education “acted arbitrarily and capriciously in removing the petitioner from his duly elected position as a member of the Community School Board 30.”

Kasapis brought his case to the court a year ago after losing an appeal to the Board of Education in January 2000.

His seat has remained vacant since his departure since Golia issued a preliminary injunction in August to prevent the school board from filling the vacancy.

The original allegations stemmed from three messages Kasapis had left on Basini’s answering machine in which she claimed he pressured her not to vote for Ciafone as school board president.

Kasapis had been vilified in a letter widely circulated to the Greek community that supported Basini’s school board candidacy, and Golia concluded the messages were a response by him to the letter rather than an attempt at coercion.

“These desperate and silly messages hardly constitute a criminal act such as would permit the respondents to bypass normal procedures and summarily remove Mr. Kasapis from an elected office that he had yet to be sworn into,” Golia wrote.

Kasapis said he felt “obviously vindicated” by the decision.

“I wanted to get on the school board to serve a purpose, and I haven’t been able to do that,” he said. “I don’t know that I could personally change the system, but I was hoping to bring some sort of change and some help to the students.”

Basini was outraged to learn Kasapis would be returning to the school board.

“I think it’s a travesty of justice, honestly,” she said. “How dare he reverse this decision? He’s supposed to uphold the law.”

Responses from current school board members, all eight of whom sat on the board at the time of Kasapis’ removal, revealed that the board remains sharply divided over the issue.

“Even though he’s been put back on this board, I hope the Board of Ed appeals it,” said Vice President John Ciafone, whose bid for the board’s presidency was allegedly the target of Kasapis’ phone calls.

“I think it’s a poor decision,” Ciafone said. “I think that this really sets a bad light on not only the Board of Education . . . but it really casts a bad shadow on the school board and the entire process.”

But Donald Stewart, who had been voted into the board presidency in the June 1999 officer election, was pleased to see Kasapis reinstated to his post.

“I think it’s too bad that they took so long to make a decision in the case,” he said. “A lot of decisions had to be made without his input, and I think it was unfortunate . . . As far as I know, there was no reason to put him off the board.”

School Board 30 serves Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Jackson Heights.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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