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Appellate Rules for Mineola School Board Over Former Trustee’s Suit

Appeals court decides against ex-trustee Laraine Salvatore over payment of legal fees.

A lawsuit brought against the by a former trustee has been ruled in favor of the district after a lengthy appeals process.

“I believe its the final chapter in that saga. I say ‘I believe’ because there is an appeal process,” Mineola Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said at the January 5 meeting of the board at the .

The case was brought against the board by former trustee Laraine Salvatore over legal costs incurred in defending herself in in which former superintendent Dr. Lorenzo Licopoli claimed Salvatore defamed him.

Licopoli had filed the suit in October 2008 for comments Salvatore made at a public meeting at which the former superintendent’s yearly evaluation was the subject, receiving an unfavorable rating.

In her sit against the board, Salvatore claimed that her legal costs exceeded $60,000 and that since she was acting as a board member during Licopoli’s evaluation – which the court upheld – and that the district should provide her with legal representation or reimburse her legal costs.

In 2008, the board was split 2-2 over paying the legal fees with Salvatore as the board member unable to vote. 

Initially Salvatore won the suit against the district in a 2009 decision where the court ruled that the district was to reimburse the legal fees until the resolution of the defamation suit, which occurred in 2010.

The board of education appealed the decision of the to dismiss the complaint with legal documents stating that Salvatore failed to show evidence or establish proof of her allegations.

The appellate court issued a unanimous ruling that there was no standing for Salvatore’s case, stating that “the Supreme Court erred in denying that branch of the defendant’s (the board’s) motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. We reject the plaintiff's contention that, under the circumstances alleged, the defendant had a fiduciary duty to her arising from the alleged scope of an insurance policy it obtained.”

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