Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10 am to correct and clarify how a portion of the dinner bill was paid for by a trustee.
The turnout Tuesday night for Bayport-Blue Point residents to meet the newly hired district superintendent, Dr. Vincent Butera, was well attended by dozens of taxpayers and district staff but not every community member is happy on how the board of education welcomed the new school chief.
The community meet-and-greet, which followed a special board of education meeting to formally approve the hiring, was not without controversy as several parents said they are outraged that the district held a dinner at a Blue Point restaurant for staff and administrators to meet Butera prior to the community meeting.
Residents Rita Palma and Noel Feustel believe the BOE event at Blue was not an appropriate action given the budget constraints facing the district and last year's challenging budget process.
"It's outrageous," said Palma, who told Patch she intends to file Freedom of Information forms to determine the actual cost of the meal and the policy of the district regarding spenditures by the BOE on such events.
"I heard [from an administrator] it cost $2,600 for the meal. That's ridiculous given that we've cut programs and things for the students due to budget issues," she said during the meet-and-greet event.
Feustel was so irked by the dinner event that he and his wife went to Blue to determine that the event was being held and his wife took pictures of the event being held in the private dining area.
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"I think this is wrong and I wanted to come down here and find out if it was true," he said.
During the meet-and-greet a BOE member confirmed the final meal tab to Patch.
Trustee Bill Milligan, who was elected in May on a platform calling for deeper review of district spend and fiscal accountabiity, said he pre-paid for 10 of the meals, which was about one third of the final tab, upon arriving at the event and did so in a low-key manner.
"I came in and said hello and then talked with management staff to pay for the table I was sitting at. I did it pre-emptively," he said, explaining it was done before his knowlege of any Feustel's attendance at the restaurant. "I didn't say anyting as I did not want to make anyone else [at the dinner event] feel uncomfortable," he told Patch Tuesday morning.
When the Feustels arrived at Blue Board of Education President James March left the dinner event to talk with them in the bar area. He said that while the dinner event was not unanimously endorsed by all the trustees, as some believed such a expenditure may be viewed as sending the wrong message, he believed it was an appropriate event.
"I defend the decision to provide the opportunity for the new superintendent to meet with administrators and the board," he told Patch. "It was appropriate and I think necessary for everyone to meet him and have a chance to talk."