Education

Lakeland School Board Seeks Recovery of Funds; Rosen Will Not Resign

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Lakeland High School Credits: File Photo
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SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Steve Rosen, a Lakeland school board trustee since 2008, confirmed to Yorktown News that he was paid more than allowed by the school district but said he never knowingly violated the board’s bylaws. In fact, Rosen said his part-time gig as scoreboard operator and security guard for district sporting events, a task he has performed since before joining the school board, was permitted by the district’s previous superintendent.

According to the board’s bylaws, a trustee cannot earn more than $750 from the district in a given year, as doing so would create a conflict of interest. Payroll information provided by the district shows that Rosen earned $22,940 from the district while a member of the Lakeland Central School District Board of Education from 2009 to 2017, nearly $15,500 more than allowed.

Rosen, the president of the Shrub Oak Athletic Club, said he earned this money mostly as a scoreboard operator for basketball games. Early in his school board tenure, he also worked as a security guard for sporting events. He was paid $40 per game as a scoreboard operator and $50 per game as a security guard, he said.

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Rosen said he only took the scoreboard operator job 15 years ago because then-Athletic Director Dennis Robinson couldn’t find anyone else for the position. Several years later, Rosen said, then-Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Connolly, who retired in 2010, asked Rosen if he would consider running for Board of Education. Rosen said he was reluctant at first.

“I said I don’t know anything about school board, I don’t know anything about financials or anything like that,” Rosen said. “It wasn’t on my bucket list to be on the school board.”

Rosen said he told Connolly about his income from the school district and asked if it would be a conflict of interest. He said Connolly told him he would meet with his attorneys and get back to him.

“Two or three days later he called me and said there is no problem, no conflict of interest, you just can’t sit on any negotiating table to negotiate raises for these [positions],” Rosen said. Connolly also reportedly told Rosen that there was no conflict because he was a vendor for the school district, not an employee.

Not only did Connolly sign off on Rosen’s extra income, he sometimes accompanied him to the games, Rosen said. On several occasions, Rosen said, Connolly drove him to the venue, where Connolly would watch from the stands and Rosen would work security or operate the scoreboard. His fellow school board members were also aware of his jobs at sporting events, he said.

“I’m sitting at a scorer’s table in the gym for 10 years,” Rosen said. “I’m not hiding under the table. Everybody sees me there.”

Only twice during his 10 years on the board, Rosen said, has anybody questioned him about a potential conflict of interest. Both inquiries were made early in his career by fellow school board members. Both times, Rosen said, he replied, “Ken Connolly told me there’s no problem.”

“The first time I heard that I could only make $750 was in the last four weeks,” Rosen said.

Recently, Rosen said, board members have told him he was supposed to take a financial class when he joined the board. He said he never took the class and was unaware that it existed. Had he known it was a conflict of interest to make more than $750, Rosen said, he would not have run for school board 10 years ago.

At last week’s school board meeting, President Carol Ann Dobson commented on the controversy surrounding Rosen’s income.

“We’ve been advised by counsel of our fiduciary duties to seek the recovery of overpayment made to Steve Rosen, so that’s what we will be doing,” Dobson said.

Trustee Steve Korn said there will be a review of the board’s “internal controls” to find out how a situation like this could have occurred.

“There’s obviously been some sort of breakdown in our audit controls function,” Korn said. “This does get review and scrutiny every year by our external and internal auditors. Nevertheless, it’s not a perfect process. Something needs to be reviewed and we will have a complete review of the process that would allow a board member to receive monies beyond a certain amount a year.”

Rosen said he has no plans to resign from the board.

“I’m not going to resign from the board because if I resign people think I did something wrong,” he said.

As far as returning the money, Rosen said his attorney is currently resolving that issue with the board’s attorney.

The Journal News also reported that Rosen has missed more than 50 school board meetings in 10 years. Rosen said he is a limousine driver and misses many meetings because he is busiest at nights. He said he also missed a “half-dozen” school board meetings to work the scoreboard.

“Most times I could find [a replacement],” Rosen said. “If I couldn’t find anybody, I had to do it because the kids wouldn’t be able to play.”

Rosen said he has received mostly support from district parents, and said there are only a few people with “personal vendettas” against him. He called the allegations against him “petty stuff.”

Rosen said he will continue to attend school board meetings and work district sporting events up to $750. After that, he said, he will donate his time.

“I’m here for the kids,” Rosen said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s all I care about—the kids. My kids have been out of the program for 20 years. They’re in their 30s and I’m still here. I’m like a sucker, I guess.”

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