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Lake Placid school board approves $65k for settlement

May 8, 2012

WILMINGTON - The Lake Placid school board approved a $65,000 budget transfer Tuesday, May 1 that will go toward a settlement agreement with an unnamed individual.

Meanwhile, school board member Gerald Blair addressed public criticism of the board for its handling of a legal battle between former middle-high school Principal Katherine Mulderig and district Superintendent Randy Richards.

Following a public hearing on the 2012-13 budget, the board unanimously approved two budget transfers totaling $65,000. One transfer took $23,000 from a salary account, and the other took $42,000 from a health insurance account.

Board President Phil Baumbach said the total amount will go toward the "pending settlement of litigation."

The school board did not say whom the settlement was for. But the News has reported that the district reached an agreement to part ways with Mulderig. A district employee, who asked not to be named out of fear of getting fired, confirmed last month that Mulderig had accepted a settlement offer before she left her job during spring break.

Both parties - school officials and Mulderig - have declined to comment on the matter.

Mulderig had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Richards last year, claiming gender discrimination, retaliation and creating a hostile work environment. The EEOC upheld the complaint, but the school board never publicly acted on it.

Community members submitted petitions seeking removal of both Mulderig and Richards.

Near the end of Tuesday's meeting, Blair stood up and addressed comments by some people who have attacked the board for its handling of the Mulderig issue. He specifically named former middle-high school Principal Robert Schiller, Patti Gallagher, Mary Dietrich and Tim Kelley. Gallagher and Dietrich are now running for the board.

Blair stressed that he was speaking on behalf of himself, not the entire board.

He said some of the criticisms leveled at the board revolved around costs for two lawyers representing the district in the Mulderig case. He said those costs were paid out of insurance accounts, not by the district.

Blair also said he needs to heed advice from lawyers when they give it.

"If you went to the doctor, and he told you to take pills and you will be healthy and cured, you have two options," he said. "You either say, 'To hell with the doctor,' or take the pills. The lawyers told us not to say anything because if we do, something will happen. When a lawyer tells you to keep your mouth shut, you have two choices: You open your mouth and you have more complications, or you don't."

As for communication issues between the board and the public, he agreed with Gallagher, who has said the lines of communication need to be improved.

"We haven't communicated well; we need to communicate better," Blair said. "We need to get people to come to meetings and listen to what we're talking about."



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