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'Secret ballot' prompts revote

A local school board convened a special meeting just days after learning a procedural error cast doubts upon the legitimacy of last Monday's officers election.

Two candidates, Nancy del Prado and Eileen French, vied for the top spot on Mohonasen Central School's Board of Education during last week's meeting.

Instead of a roll call vote where individual board members state whom they vote for, Mohonasen used a secret ballot that resulted in a 4-3 del Prado win.

The only record of the election results was pieces of paper with anonymous votes scrawled upon them and that was wrong, according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the NYS Committee on Open Government.

Freeman, who is widely regarded in legal circles as the state's foremost expert on open meetings law, said state law requires a record be maintained that indicates the final vote of any proceeding in which a member votes.

The law doesn't specify how the vote must be cast but a record must be kept which indicates how each member voted, Freeman said. "Otherwise we have no idea of how our elected represent-atives feel about whatever the issue may be."

Last Monday's election was District Clerk Denise Swezey's first and she said it was conducted according to board policy and Robert's Rules of Order.

"I handed out seven pieces of paper and they indicated whom they wanted to vote for," Swezey said Thursday, explaining how the first officer election was conducted. "(Superintendent of Schools) Dr. Spring and I went over this quite a bit the other night."

Freeman said state law has precluded secret balloting since 1974 and the Court of Appeals - the state's highest court " has affirmed that.

After learning Freeman's opinion, and then consulting with the school district's attorney, Spring convened a special board meeting at 4 p.m. Friday.

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