New Paltz School Board President Donald Kerr was charged with possession of 8 pounds of marijuana on Nov. 7, leading to his resignation from the board.
Kerr was arrested after signing for a package that contained 8 pounds — approximately $32,000 worth — of marijuana that was delivered to the building his business is located in on Main Street.
Police charged Kerr, a 52-year-old Millrock Road resident, on Monday with second degree criminal possession of marijuana after a K-9 unit positively identified the package to contain the drug. This is a class “D” felony.
Kerr, who was also charged with possession of marijuana and driving while impaired more than two years ago, has left some community members concerned over the nature of his departure and its effect on the district in light of his resignation.
“A member of something like that in the community, especially the president – he has a role and has a responsibility to the community and obviously to the students he is supposed to be serving,” said Gina Guarente, vice president of the district’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Guarente called Kerr’s arrest “irresponsible” and believed Kerr’s position in the community should have prevented him from being in the situation. She said she felt strongly that it was the responsibility of those in the education field to serve as “role models” for those they serve.
“It’s one of those things – it’s crazy, trying to put it into words is hard. I guess it’s not something you’re expecting to find in a community as small as New Paltz,” she said.
PTA President Alison Easton declined to comment on Kerr’s resignation.
Andy Kossover, Kerr’s attorney, said Kerr was arrested “within seconds” of signing for the package but believes his client was charged unjustly as the parcel was not addressed to Kerr or his business.
“I’m not, as an attorney, sure there was enough probable cause to make an arrest,” Kossover said. “It would have been a much different situation if they had waited to see what an individual would do with a package like that.”
Kossover believes that because the package was not addressed to Kerr, and he did not place it by a doorway or put it in his car or office, he will be exonerated from the charge. He also said it was important to note that the building currently has four commercial tenants and three residential tenants – some of whom are traditionally students.
“Many of us sign for packages all the time, that doesn’t make us guilty of a felony,” Kossover said. “We are definitely looking forward to having him exonerated from his charge. Mr. Kerr is innocent of this charge and we look forward to the opportunity to proving that.”
Kossover said although he believes he is innocent, Kerr — who has lead the Board of Education since 2009 — decided to resign as to not “paralyze the board” and create distractions.
School Board Vice President Kathleen Tobin Flusser said in light of the resignation, the board can take two routes to replace Kerr. One possibility would include someone being appointed by a majority vote, or a special election may be held. Tobin Flusser said the board will discuss the issue the next time they meet all together.
For now, Tobin Flusser said the board needs to stay focused in the aftermath of the resignation.
“We have a lot of serious issues – building a budget in light of a 2 percent tax cut…my course of action is to stay focused on education,” she said.