What began as a meeting honoring student achievements turned confrontational, leading to police escorting a candidate in this April's BOE election out of the library Monday night.
Despite not signing the clipboard prior to the meeting, Ralph Vellon announced during the the meeting his intention to speak while a School No. 4 parent took the microphone. When BOE President Pete Zangari cited Bylaw 0167 in the board's Bylaws and Policies manual regarding public participation in board meetings, Vellon kept arguing, prompting the president to bang his gavel several times.
A few minutes later, Vellon's conduct led to Zangari tersely warning him, “If you don't know how to act, I'm going to ask you to leave.”
At this point, Vellon stood up and said loudly, “This board is a joke,” which prompted a recess in which nearly the entire BOE left the library for approximately 20 minutes. Two Belleville police officers arrived and escorted the candidate – who lost in last year's BOE election – into the hallway before seeing him out of the building.
Vellon, who filed a suit against the board requestion financial records throught he Open Public Records Act, was not arrested.
“You try not to let these meetings get out of control,” Zangari said afterward. “He's obviously here and he's obviously here with an agenda. He knows better than to get up and ask questions.”
At this time, Board Attorney Al DeMeo produced a copy of Bylaw 0167, which specifically states, “A citizen who wishes to speak at the meeting must sign up to speak prior to the opening of the meeting in order to be able to speak at the meeting.”
After the board left – but before the police arrived – Vellon stood in front of the room and loudly declared, “These are our children we're fighting for here. Not our jobs. You could walk away if you want, but the issues are going to be here.”
When Chris Lamparello, president of the Special Education Parents and Professional Organization, asked Vellon to stop, the man walked over toward her and said, “Too bad” before asking her “What are you accomplishing? What are you fighting for?” Visibly upset, Lamparello left the library.
And when Home and School Association President Jeanne Lombardi, who is running for the BOE on the same ticket as Zangari, attempted to reason with the man she is vying for an open seat against, Vellon snapped, “We know where you stand … You're with them.”
Before the meeting turned confrontational, Vellon sat in the front row and took notes while scoffing at several board comments and, at one point, stuck his tongue out at Zangari.
Once Vellon was escorted out of the building, the BOE returned and restored order before ending the meeting a short while later.
Check back with the Belleville Patch for a roundup of other BOE meeting happenings.