A petition filed with the state seeking the ouster of Gloversville Board of Education President Peter Semione paints a picture of him as an abrasive and verbally abusive leader.
Angry that fellow board members defied him, the petition says, Semione directed abusive language, including a homosexual slur, against them and threatened to have a board member’s son-in-law fired from his tennis coaching position in the district.
The petition also accuses Semione of telling some board members he would “ruin you and your whole family and see you all burn” by use of “blackmail files” he claims to possess.
In the petition, a five-member faction of the nine-member board alleges Semione’s behavior toward them amounts to second-degree aggravated harassment, a class A misdemeanor. Semione has not been charged with any crimes.
“Respondent’s behavior is egregious, reprehensible and otherwise personally threatening to both board members and their families. This should be deemed unacceptable under any circumstances,” according to the petition.
Attorney Mark Rose of Little Falls submitted the petition to the commissioner of the state Education Department on Nov. 29 on behalf of the majority faction. The Daily Gazette obtained a copy of the petition Friday.
Semione on Friday issued the following statement: “We have responded to the petition and we emphatically deny everything in it. It is unfortunate that certain board members put their personal agendas in front of the needs of the district. We look forward to the commissioner’s decision so that the truth can come out. I will continue to be an advocate for the children of our district.”
Semione would not define the “we” in his statement.
The five-member faction consists of Vice President Frank Carangelo and members Polly Peck, Joseph Andrews, Mike Hauser and Robert Curtis. They voted in October to hire Rose to prepare a petition seeking the ouster of Semione over his alleged misconduct. The education commissioner can remove a board member for gross misconduct under Section 306 of the Education Law.
The petition includes numerous quotes attributed to Semione. The sources of the quotes are not identified in the petition, although several board members said they taped Semione’s comments and that he repeated them in the presence of two or more board members several times.
The petition outlines the course of events that led the majority faction to seek Semione’s ouster. It states that in mid-August, the acting superintendent, Clifford Moses, proposed an involuntary transfer of the high school and middle school music teachers between their positions and the proposal caused a public outcry.
When several board members tried to learn more about the transfer and tried to schedule a meeting for Sept. 5, Semione called Carangelo and used abusive and threatening language against him and his son-in-law, according to the petition.
The petition states Semione also called Andrews and Peck and “screamed and yelled” at them and made “belligerent and threatening” statements to them. In one statement, Semione allegedly told Peck he had a “blackmail list and would expose everyone” and “bring them down” if they continued to question his authority as board president.
Semione allegedly told Andrews he would have him thrown off the board and “dragged through the street for all to see,” according to the petition. Further, he told board members he wanted to “kick Joe Andrew’s [expletive],” the document stated.
In another statement attributed to Semione and included in the petition, he told Andrews, “My word is final,” and that he would use his “blackmail files” to expose “anyone that dares to try and challenge me and overturn my decision.”
The board’s petition said Semione’s behavior “goes far beyond any boundaries of usual political dissension and contentiousness as may be expected in the workings of a municipal school board.”
Other board members have spoken against the attempt to oust Semione. At the Oct. 24 board meeting, board member Richard Carlson said he does not believe Semione’s actions crossed the line to warrant his removal.
“To me, it seems a classic ‘He said this, he said that,’ with the truth somewhere in the middle,” Carlson said.
At the Oct. 30 board meeting, board member Jean LaPorta tried to head off the ouster vote by offering her own resolution. She asked Semione to resign as president, because the board had lost confidence in his leadership. She said he would be doing the right thing by resigning and that his resignation would save the district money.
“I refuse to spend any taxpayer dollars to throw Pete off the board,” she said.
Semione refused to step down, prompting the majority faction to proceed with its motion to hire an attorney to seek his ouster.
At least one board member said publicly that if the commissioner does not remove Semione, the board majority is prepared to move forward with another action against him.