Ousted Kasapis Might Face Lawsuits From Victims
By John Toscano
Theodore Kasapis, the Astoria attorney who was removed as a member of School Board 30 two weeks ago, may be facing a court suit by Jeannie Tsavaris-Basini, also a board member, for alleged actions against her which led to his dismissal.
Kasapis is also facing a possible suit by Community Board 1 and by District Manager George Delis for alleged actions committed by Kasapis during Delis’ campaign for the state senate nomination last year.
Meanwhile, Kasapis has requested a stay of Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew’s order of dismissal pending his appeal to the central Board of Education to overturn the dismissal order.
Reacting to Kasapis’ removal, Basini stated, "I am very happy the chancellor upheld the law. There are so many issues to be voted on and it would have been bad for the board to have to continue under these conditions."
Basini said that in addition to alleged telephone threats Kasapis made to her regarding the board’s election of a president, he also sent "goons" to board meetings afterward "to sit there and smirk at me" and, in effect, try to intimidate her with their presence.
"I am a decent, caring person and should not have to be treated that way," Basini declared. She said the telephone calls from Kasapis also involved her husband and family, causing "great distress in our lives."
"I know my civil rights have been violated, I’ve been stressed out over this and I’m concerned about my safety and my family’s safety," she complained. "All I wanted to do was serve the children of this district."
Basini said she had spoken to a couple of attorneys about a possible suit against Kasapis but had not made a final decision. "Most likely I will have to pursue it." Basini said she had also discussed the situation with her brother, Lieutenant Commander John Tsavaris, whom she described as an attorney and a security advisor at the Pentagon in Washington during the Bush administration.
Delis said, "Justice was served" by Crew’s decision. He said Kasapis "blamed me for getting thrown off the board, but he’s the one that made the calls."
Delis continued, "This opens the door to possible law suits. I’ll be speaking with the Department of Justice because I feel my rights were violated during last year’s campaign."
During that campaign, in which Delis challenged state Senator George Onorato for the Democratic nomination and lost, Kasapis worked for Onorato’s campaign and Delis says he engaged in several acts which were unlawful. Complaints were made to the police but no charges were ever filed against anyone.
Kasapis’ alleged threats to Basini came after last May’s school board elections in which both she and Kasapis were elected for the first time. Delis campaigned for Basini and John Ciafone, who had served as school board president and also won re-election. In the election for school board president, the board eventually elected Donald Stewart. Ciafone did not run because he knew he didn’t have the votes to win.
Commenting on Crew’s action to remove Kasapis, Ciafone recalled the run-ins with Kasapis during last year’s elections, in which Ciafone opposed Onorato for district leader and lost. Turning his attention, to the dismissal, Ciafone, an attorney, said, "Those calls to Basini were indeed coercion because he suggested if she voted for me she would be punished."
Ciafone said he would speak on Basini’s behalf and against Kasapis if Kasapis appeals Crew’s decision. Delis said he would, too.
Crew’s dismissal of Kasapis came in a letter to him dated Sept. 15th. In it, Crew said his action was based on an investigation by the Board of Education’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI).
OSI concluded, Crew said, that on three occasions on June 7th, Kasapis had left telephone messages for Basini "in an attempt to coerce Ms. Basini into not voting for John Ciafone for president of Community School Board 30."
Continuing, Crew said that OSI also concluded "that you intended to instill fear in Ms. Basini that if she voted for Mr. Ciafone, you would expose information calculated to harm her reputation."
The OSI report, Crew added, "also concluded that in the criminal context, your conduct would satisfy the elements of New York State Penal Law, Section 135.60, coercion in the second degree."
Based on the findings, OSI recommended Kasapis’ removal and Crew accepted the recommendation.
"I cannot tolerate this type of conduct by a community school board member," Crew stated. "You serve in an important and visible leadership position, and act as a role model for the students in District 30. I will not allow the children of Community School District 30 to be represented by a person who conducts himself in this manner."
The removal was effective immediately, Crew concluded.
In response, Kasapis said in a prepared statement that he was "disappointed that Crew’s office was manipulated by unscrupulous individuals with a political agenda intent on depriving the voters of their choice of representatives."
Continuing, Kasapis said, "George Delis and his cronies on Board 30 have improperly misdirected the focus of our School Board by interjecting personal rivalries into the board’s functioning. We should all focus on our children’s futures, and not on our own political careers."
If Crew’s decision stands, Kasapis’ removal would be the first time a Board 30 member was removed for actions such as those alleged to have been committed by him. In the past, a board member was removed because he did not meet the residential requirements to serve on the board.