Page 4 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • September 2, 2009 FLOW Area Former superintendent sues school trustee by Frank J. McMahon The former superintendent of the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District has filed suit against a current member of the board of education for slander, libel, and breach of school board policy. Paul Saxton, who retired as the district’s superintendent in October 2008, filed the suit against Ira Belsky and unnamed others he believes may be responsible for damaging his reputation. The lawsuit is based on a written statement read by Belsky at a public meeting on April 28, 2008 in which Belsky criticized Saxton for how the district was managed and accused some long term trustees for not holding Saxton and his administration accountable for what the trustee described as “failures to attend to matters of importance to this board and to the primary educational responsibilities of the district.” Belsky also criticized Saxton for not providing an analysis of the state’s report card, for not informing the board about how the district has performed in comparison with other comparable districts in Bergen County and the state, and for not providing the board with financial analysis or commentary to provide insight on how the district measures up financially to other similarly situated districts, or how the district’s expenditures in important categories contrast with other schools viewed as the district’s peers. Belsky further complained that the board’s goal setting activity had been managed by Saxton to avoid setting any real goals and he accused Saxton of using the board “as a rubber stamp” to approve important board actions by placing last minute additions on agendas and not affording the board the time required to fairly consider the important matters requiring action. Belsky’s statement was read at the end of the meeting at which the school board voted to name the district’s administration building after Saxton and during which the board’s new president and vice president for the 2008-09 school year were selected by the board. In the lawsuit, Saxton repeats all the accusations made by Belsky at that meeting and he complains that Belsky made the statement in the presence of his family and members of the public and the statement contained numerous false statements or allegations. Saxton complained that Belsky made numerous false statements about him and his abilities as superintendent, and his evaluations by the entire school board, and that Belsky knew, or should have known, that the statements he read were untrue and would injure his reputation. He also states in the complaint that Belsky knew that any criticism of any board employee was not to be made in a public session of the board unless the employee had been put on official notice and had consented to being discussed at the public portion of the meeting, and that was not done in his case. Saxton’s suit also claims Belsky published the same statement in a letter to members of the public in July 2008 and distributed it to parents of students within the district and/or members of the public, further damaging his reputation. “Defendant Belsky engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct with reckless disregard for the harm, including emotional harm, to the plaintiff and his family,” the lawsuit states. Saxton claims his reputation was injured as a result of what he described as “false and malicious statements” made by Belsky and others, and he is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, attorney fees, and the cost of the lawsuit. Belsky did not respond to a request to comment on the suit. After Belsky made his statement, the board reacted to his criticisms with a proposed resolution of censure, which claimed Belsky violated several board policies including a board member’s code of ethics. That resolution also claimed he had taken actions detrimental to the best interests of the board and which violate various provisions of board policies, and that he failed to maintain the confidentiality of matters required to be held in confidence and discussed them in a public forum and with one or more representatives of the news media in contravention of three board policies. 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