Reimbursing a school board member's legal expenses incurred in litigation

Reimbursing a school board member's legal expenses incurred in litigation  
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,422

The Commissioner of Education, after denying the application of the school board seeking to remove one of its members for allegedly “disclosing confidential information to a third party,” considered one additional administrative matter. The board member that the board sought to have removed from the board asked the Commissioner to grant her a certificate of good faith pursuant to Education Law §3811(1). Such a certificate  would required the school district to reimburse her the “reasonable legal expenses” she incurred in the proceeding.

§3811(1), in pertinent part, provides for the reimbursement of reasonable legal expenses incurred by a board member when “the trustees or board of education of any school district … have been or shall be instructed by a resolution adopted at a district meeting to defend any action brought against them, or to bring or defend an action or proceeding touching any district property or claim of the district … as well as all costs and damages adjudged against them…."

The Commissioner rejected the board member’s request, explaining that Education Law §3811(1) does not provide for the reimbursement of legal expenses incurred by a board member in defending “a criminal prosecution or an action or proceeding” brought against a board member by a school district, including proceedings before the Commissioner of Education.

Accordingly, said the Commissioner, the board member was not entitled to a certificate of good faith because the application seeking the removal of the board member was brought by the school district of which the board member was an officer 

The Commissioner’s decision is posted on the Internet at: