ANSONIA — A lawyer representing city hall in its lawsuit with the school board said a letter from the state’s education department threatening the city was “inappropriate and offensive.”
The lawyer, Vincent Marino, sent a letter to Peter Haberlandt, the state Department of Education’s legal director, Thursday.
Marino’s response comes a day after Ansonia school officials released copies of two letters from the state to Mayor David Cassetti saying the state Board of Education may take punitive action against the city over the Board of Aldermen’s January vote to deduct $600,000 from the school board’s budget.
The Aldermen’s move meant that city schools did not receive at least the same amount of money it had the previous year — a violation of Connecticut’s “minimum budget requirement,” (MBR) according to the state Department of Education.
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In his response, Marino notes that the city is in court with the school board over the matter — because the school board sued the city.
He said a hearing has been set for Nov. 13 before Judge Barry Stevens to discuss motions from each side in the case.
The state should hold off on taking any action before that, the lawyer said.
“It is therefore up to the Court, not the State Department of Education, to determine whether the City met its statutory MBR for the 2017-18 fiscal year,” Marino wrote.
“I also take this opportunity to remind you that the ABOE (Ansonia Board of Education) chose to initiate the Litigation instead of availing itself of any administrative process,” Marino wrote.
The lawyer said that if the state Board of Education takes action before a judge does, the city could ask the judge for an injunction to put off any penalties.
Haberlandt’s letter to Cassetti asked the mayor to meet next week, but Marino’s letter said that won’t be happening. The mayor had said Wednesday a meeting was “possible,” but that changed after talking to lawyers.
“Your request for a meeting next week is declined,” Marino wrote.
The Valley Indy emailed Schools Superintendent Carol Merlone and Board of Education President William Nimons Thursday seeking comment.
The letter is below.