Rockland County, NY - Jewish E. Ramapo Board Member: I Should Have Done More
Rockland County, NY - As tensions continue to escalate in the embattled East Ramapo School District after a school board meeting turned into an explosive confrontation between the district’s lawyer and a parent, one of the members of the school board expressed regret for not publicly rebuking the lawyer at the first sign of trouble.
School board vice president Yonah Rothman can be seen attempting to defuse the confrontation in the district’s South Madison Avenue parking lot in a video that has been circulating on the internet and captured the disturbing incident which took place after a heated school board meeting, as previously reported on VIN News. This afternoon, In a telephone interview with VIN News, Rothman admitted he should have escorted lawyer Chris Kirby out of the meeting immediately after his verbal attack on parent and education activist Peggy Hatton.
“I should have jumped up and walked him out as soon as it happened,” Rothman told VIN News. “I was caught so off guard I sat there asking myself ‘did I just hear that?’ I could not believe a professional lawyer would speak that way and at this point I will agree with anyone who says I should have stood up and said something immediately.”
According to Rothman, soft spoken school board president Yehuda Weissmandl did try to reprimand Kirby and twelve seconds after the diatribe begins on the video, a voice can be heard in the background saying “Chris, Chris.” After allowing a parent in the audience to chastise Kirby and letting Hatton complete her remarks which included a scathing twenty two second rebuke of the board members, Weissmandl moved to quickly adjourn the meeting, one minute and four seconds after Kirby’s verbal tirade began.
Rothman called Kirby’s behavior deplorable and said it was seemed out of character for Kirby, adding that Kirby did seem uptight during the meeting.
“I am still floored,” said Rothman. “I have never seen Chris behave in this way and I can’t think of anything that would have warranted that kind of behavior. I couldn’t believe that that was Chris speaking.”
According to Rothman, Weissmandl escorted Kirby out of the meeting and walked him to his car, telling him that his behavior was unacceptable and directing him to go home, before he himself went home.
“No one dreamed he would come out of his car and seeing that happen, I was afraid they were going to come to blows,” recalled Rothman. “I tried to be the calming influence and told him he had just made a serious mistake.”
Rothman can be seen on the video asking Kirby to go home multiple times, telling him “you are going to regret this in the morning.”
Rothman confirmed that the board is looking very seriously into the incident and has convened a meeting for 7 PM Monday night to discuss the unfortunate turn of events. Rothman agreed that while he believes the high priority meeting should have been scheduled sooner, it was impossible to do so given the logistics of the long holiday weekend.
“Regulations dictate that we need a quorom, five out of nine members, to hold a meeting,” explained Rothman. “People had scheduled vacations and this is not something anyone could have foreseen.”
Kirby’s position as counsel for the school district has long been a subject of discussion. Kirby is employed at the Long Island based Minerva & D’Agostino P.C., which according to reports on LoHud.com, bills $250 per hour, double the amount paid to the district’s previous lawyer, and charges $125 an hour for transportation costs.
Rothman said the decision to hire Kirby was made long before he was elected to the school board and that he himself had questioned Kirby’s hiring. According to Rothman, he was told that Kirby was hired for his expertise in dealing with the logistical issues of a school district which has a large percentage of private school parents.
Despite Tuesday night’s ugly confrontation, Rothman expressed optimism that there can be sunnier days ahead for the troubled school district.
“We have to find a way to co-exist,” said Rothman. “I believe there is a middle ground here. We just have to find it.”
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