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Groups tussle over Uniontown school director's appointment

| Friday, March 2, 2007

A citizens group wants a Fayette County judge to rule that Uniontown Area school directors violated state law by appointing a school director without openly interviewing any candidates.

But an attorney for the district told Judge John F. Wagner Jr. that nothing in the state's Sunshine Act requires the board to conduct formal interviews.

Wagner did not rule Thursday after the more than two-hour hearing probing the school board's actions at a Dec. 11 special meeting.

Attorney Herbert Margolis, representing the Citizens Advisory Committee, argued the board illegally voted to install former director Charles Castor to replace outgoing director Ron Machesky, who submitted his resignation hours before the Dec. 11 meeting.

With two members of the nine-person board absent, board member Nancy Herring provided a fifth vote in Castor's favor when she voted by speakerphone.

The citizens committee also objected to Herring's vote for a $7 million, interest-free bond, but the district lost the funding when a bank pulled out before the closing because of the committee's lawsuit.

"The evidence in this case, your honor, is 100 percent positive that this board is secretive," Margolis said.

Michael Brungo, an attorney for the district, countered that the board's only requirement was to replace Machesky within 30 days.

If a month passed without an appointment, district residents would have been permitted to apply for the opening.

The committee's litigation has political undertones because three of the defendants -- board members Herring, Susan Clay and Tammy Boyle -- voted for Castor and are up for re-election this year.

Meanwhile, committee member Tim Sandstrom, who received more votes than Castor in a past election, was interested in the seat Machesky vacated.

Wagner frequently acted yesterday to keep the hearing focused on the complaints noted in the lawsuit, trying to avoid the politics of the school board's meetings.

"If they (the school directors) are doing something wrong, shame on them, and the voters will correct that," the judge said.

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