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Community Group Calls for Removal of RCSD School Board President Van White

By Staff

 

VWhiteA group of community members calling for the removal of Rochester City School District school board president Van White held a protest Tuesday, outside RCSD’s Central Office Building, at 131 W. Broad St.

The group, which has labeled itself the “Concerned Citizens of Rochester, NY, Monroe County, and Beyond,” said it was calling for White’s resignation from the board by the end of this week, after he recently served as an attorney for the defense in a case against sexual offender Roy Battle.

Battle pleaded guilty to two charges of second-degree sexual abuse earlier this year, in a case that initially involved the alleged abuse of two teenage boys.

However, during a hearing Nov. 30, prosecutors offered Battle a plea deal, which resulted in his receipt of six months jail time and 10 years probation for the crimes.

“We’re calling on his six colleagues to remove him from the position of president, and for his resignation immediately,” community activist Howard Eagle stated. “If he doesn’t, we’re going to pursue it at the state level.”

However, according to White, Battle’s plea had nothing to do with the sexual abuse of children.

In addition, White also said he believed his client was innocent.

“Mr. Eagle has accused him of being a pedophile,” White stated. “What Mr. Battle pleaded to does not involve children. Not at all. The district attorney made an offer. I did not make the offer. And, a judge approved it. Why? Why do people think that happened? Does anybody think, if they had such a great case, do they think they would have made that offer?

“I would not have taken the case if I did not believe Mr. Battle was innocent,” White stated. “I don’t take cases if I believe people are guilty.”

However, ethically, Eagle said White still shouldn’t have taken the case.

“No matter what kind of rationalization he tries to put forth, there are going to be cases he shouldn’t take,” Eagle stated.

The group’s  letter has cited “New York; Education Law section 2503: Powers and duties of board of education,” as evidence of White’s dereliction of his duties as a school board member, relative to his acceptance of the case; however, it’s not clear whether the law has made any determinations regarding the ethical practices of the school board’s commissioners.

In addition, White has also pointed to section 801 of New York’s general municipal law, in an effort to show there is no conflict of interest.

“No municipal officer or employee shall have an interest in any contract with the municipality of which he is an officer or employee, when such officer or employee, individually or as a member of a board, has the power or duty to (a) negotiate, prepare, authorize or approve the contract…,” the law stated.

“There is no conflict of interest,” White said. “And, I would not have taken this case if I did not believe in the sixth amendment right to effective representation.”

In the end, White said he has no plans to step down from the school board.

And, as a result, Eagle said his group is prepared to move forward.

“In many cases in this community, we will begin on things like this, and just give up,” Eagle stated. “People like Van, they almost count on that. People who know me, know I will pursue it until the end. And, even then, I would ask, ‘Is there some other recourse?’ We don’t do that in this community, so people get away with murder. And you produce Van Whites.”

According to White, he hopes both Battle and the complainants, whom he said have also approved the DA’s plea deal, will be able to move forward, and put this case behind them.

“I hope and pray that everyone involved in this can move on,” White stated.

View the community members’ full letter to school board members, which calls for White’s resignation, below.

Dear Commissioner White,

This correspondence is on behalf of individuals and organizations listed below, and all citizens of Rochester, New York, County of Monroe, and beyond who agree with our position, also outlined below. 

Based on the fact that you recently provided legal representation for an admitted pedophile, and in the process of doing so, advanced thoroughly disgusting rationalizations relative to your grossly inappropriate actions, (in accordance with “New York; Education Law section 2503: Powers and duties of board of education,” ( http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/excerpts/edn2503.htm# ) as well as, possibly other applicable rules, regulations, and laws that govern the duties and responsibilities of Board Commissioners, not only do your above referenced actions represent a grave conflict of interest, but also dereliction of your duty as a Commissioner and President of the Rochester Board of Education.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, demand that you immediately resign from your position as Board President, and ultimately resign from your position as Board Commissioner, altogether.

Unless you immediately resign from the position of Board President, we are requesting that your six (6) Board colleagues (Vice-President Elliott, along with Commissioners Evans, Cruz, Hallmark, Powell, and Adams) take appropriate, immediate actions to remove you from the position of President.

Unless you resign from the Board altogether by the end of this week, we are committed to pursuing additional legal actions to have you removed. 

Sincerely,

On behalf of Howard J.Eagle (The People’s Agenda Group), Gloria Winston Al-Sarag, Michael E. Mason, Andria Bryant (The People’s Agenda Group), Julie Walker, Emmy Lee Lawrence, Etheleen Lawrence (The People’s Agenda Group), Reine Lawrence, Joshua Heath, Mr. Robert K. Hoggard (English teacher, Vanguard High School and Leadership Academy), Henry Gatson, Antonia Wynter (Enhanced Business Outlook), Gwen Nesbit, Charlotte Ross, Kenneth Muhammad (The People’s Agenda Group), Adelina Lee Gonzalez, Vonjula Thompson, Ka’Ron Lightle, Jim Greco, Yolanda Green, Chu Chrong, Joe Butler (The People’s Agenda Group), Tazzi Brooks, Cynthia DeRouen Powell, James W. Sawers, Terry Brinkley, Siobhan DeJesus (Buffalo, NY), Dana Bratcher, Gennie Richmond, Kellee Logan, Jesse Bowen, Bill Wischmeyer, Amen Imhotep Ptah, Nancy Kraus, Ron Kraus, Dana Harris, Marquise Harris, Rachael Harris, Shawntinae Bryant,  Desire Harris, David Nervin, Donald Frazier, Matthew Miller, Tim Strachan, Samuel Barrett, Kerry Coleman, Eddie Beverly, Vic Simonetti, The Black Panther Party of Rochester New York (Daryl Appleberry, Scean Green, Fahiym El Yabless, Quin Bostick), and all citizens of Rochester, New York, County of Monroe, and beyond who agree with our position outlined above. 

xc: Cynthia Elliott, Malik Evans, Jose Cruz, Elizabeth Hallmark, Willa Powell, Mary Adams, Barbara Deane-Williams

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