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Malverne Trustee Criticizes BOE's Choice for 'Impartial Investigator'

Board of Education Trustee Gina Genti speaks out about complaints lodged against her and who the board has tapped to investigate them.

Malverne Board of Education Trustee Gina Genti does not fault her fellow school board members for following up on a complaint made against her by district employees.

"I feel strongly that any complaint against anyone needs to be addressed," Genti told Patch Wednesday, , to serve as the "impartial investigator" to conduct an investigation regarding staff complaints made against her.

"My biggest issue with the whole thing is who they hired," she added.

To save taxpayer dollars, Genti contends that the district could have tapped an investigator at a fraction of the cost of a law firm. According to the district's last contract with Ingerman Smith, which expired in June 2012, the firm was charging $250 per hour plus the cost of any out-of-pocket expenses including fees for filing, processing, delivery, and photocopying, as well as travel and meals.

Her second objection is to the specific firm selected, questioning its "impartiality" due to its past affiliation with the district and Malverne's superintendent, Dr. James Hunderfund.

According to an article published in Newsday in 2006, Hunderfund's personal attorney, John Gross, is a partner in Ingerman Smith LLP. (Gross is still listed as a partner on the firm's Web site.) Newsday also reported that Ingerman Smith provided legal services for the Jericho School District, where Hunderfund's wife, was serving as an assistant superintendent, at the time.

"The impartial piece goes right out the window," she said.

Board of Education President Peg O' Connor refused to answer Genti's questions regarding the firm during Tuesday's meeting, but she did release this statement to Patch:

The Board of Education interviewed a number of well-qualified law firms to address our need for independent counsel, which was required because existing general counsel cannot (ethically) investigate Board members it already represents. The Board unanimously chose Ingerman, Smith for this work, and the Superintendent was, of course, not a part of the hiring process, as this was not an administrative or school matter. 

There is absolutely no conflict here as this is an issue between the Board of Education and one of its members. The superintendent is not a party to the action of the Board regarding its individual members. 

Although Genti could not comment on the specific details of the complaint lodged against her at this time, she did say it was filed nearly one year ago and involved Facebook. (Genti is a frequent commenter in the "I Love Malverne And Care About Our Schools" Facebook group.)

It took the board until April 2012, nearly six months after the complaint was filed, to adopt regulations addressing how to deal with it, or any complaint made by a staff member, explained Genti. Four trustees voted in favor of the guidelines but she opposed them for "numerous reasons."

She said she didn't have adequate time to do her "due diligence" on the regulations and therefore, didn't feel comfortable voting on them. But her main objection to the procedure created by the guidelines was that it "stifled a board member's ability to vote," something she says should never be allowed. 

Although the board adopted the regulations, Genti said they did not do much with them after that. But with the resignation of Trustee Patrick Coonan and the retirement of Karen Aker, the May 2012 election soon brought two new faces, Michael Taylor and Josephine Bottitta, to the board.

"Now, we have a new board and that new board felt compelled to move forward with this issue even though they weren't here [when the complaint was made]," Genti said.      

Although Genti has yet to reveal exactly which of her Facebook posts has put her in hot water, she did say this: "What some people consider a complaint, I consider doing my due diligence."

She also pointed out that she is only one of five board members, and therefore, she alone "couldn't possibly adversely affect the employment of any one employee." She added, "You may not like me, but doesn't mean I can harm you."  

Gerald Barr November 15, 2012 at 10:48 PM
When Malverne school district residents – public and private school parents and other residents – are moved enough to act against the systematic degrading of our town by this corrupt Board and catalyst, Dr. Hunderfund, only then will the scourge be lifted. This Hunderfund-crafted board continues to fleece, manipulate and bully our district’s residents for its selfish purposes. If they want to investigate a Board member it should be the board member who is responsible for employing her Hempstead School District rejects that now staff Malverne schools. How did they get their jobs? Unbelievable.
Susan Murphy November 15, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Totally agree with Lori Hunt Lang....if you do not have the courage to stand up and speak with your name in full view...then your comments should be dismissed....I have not found anything that Gina Genti has said that deserves this ridiculous waste of the taxpayers money.
Tommy Gallagher November 16, 2012 at 03:48 AM
She wouldnt complain so much if she wasn't guilty. She should resign to save us the cost of the investigation
Clark Griswold November 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
The slime balls here are Hunderfund, and O'Connor. They need to go. O'Connor feels that she does not need to answer to the taxpayers except at election time. This board needs to be put on notice that the only tax increase that will be acceptable this year is 0% or a rollback. O'Connor's job is to hold the administrators feet to the fire and make them do more with less like every other government agency is doing. I would love to use my real name but it's not smart when dealing with this level of corruption.
Jan Kasal December 13, 2012 at 03:29 PM
If you follow the Malverne school district news on a regular basis you are aware that the board of education has recently become an agenda of its own, not leaving much room for any other business. Its conduct has been divisive, obscure, and poisonous. The current school board is a burden and embarrassment to the school district residents. If you are ready to dedicate some time to prepare for the upcoming May 2013 school budget and school board member elections and to change the course, please join others by contacting me at vevajanka@hotmail.com


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