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Ruling clears Jacobs on ethical issue

A ruling that clears Buffalo Board of Education member Christopher L. Jacobs of ethical violations in a student-placement case "confirms what I said from the outset," Jacobs said Thursday.

"In my mind, there was a real misunderstanding," Jacobs said of allegations that he improperly helped the then-deputy county executive get his daughter readmitted to City Honors School. "It's unfortunate that it had to be flushed out this way. I'm just glad it's concluded and that we can move on from here and concentrate on student achievement."

Jacobs said he offered Bruce L. Fisher and his daughter the same assistance he would have provided to any other family seeking to enter the Buffalo schools.

The board's ethics commission ruled earlier this week that there is "no reasonable cause" to believe that Jacobs violated the ethics code by assisting the Fishers.

Jacobs "made an inquiry" on Fisher's behalf, and school officials handled the student placement from there, John Calvin Davis, chairman of the Commission on Ethics, said Thursday.

"Mr. Jacobs' involvement was minimal at best," Davis said.

City Honors Principal William A. Kresse said earlier this year in a report to School Superintendent James A. Williams that Jacobs applied pressure to have Fisher's daughter admitted.

Kresse said Jacobs, an at-large board member, asked him to place the girl in the school and "reminded" him that she was the daughter of the deputy county executive. Two weeks later, Kresse said, two school administrators "contacted me on Mr. Jacobs' behalf."

Fisher's daughter left the school earlier, Kresse said, and was re-enrolled in violation of City Honors policy prohibiting most placements after ninth grade and in spite of an assessment that she could not meet the school's tough graduation requirements.

Kresse did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Davis said the commission's decision to clear Jacobs was made after interviews with him, Kresse, Fisher, school district placement officials and Catherine Nugent Panepinto, the Board of Education member who filed the complaint.

Panepinto said that a court stenographer took a verbatim record of her interview with the commission but that the stenographer was excused when Jacobs was interviewed and that the conversation with him was not recorded.

"I don't understand that," Panepinto said. "It seemed kind of strange."

Panepinto also filed a complaint with the commission revolving around Kresse's complaint that Associate Superintendent Will Keresztes forced a change in the grading system that resulted in a national honor for his daughter -- a student at City Honors -- that she otherwise would not have received.

Davis said the commission will conduct a more formal hearing on that complaint. Keresztes denied the accusation when the issue surfaced publicly in April.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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