A Hamburg Central School Board member maintains the board did not have enough votes to charge her with official misconduct last week, and she is asking the state education commissioner to halt the process to remove her.
Board President David Yoviene should not have voted on the charges against Catherine Schrauth Forcucci because he has accused her of misconduct, Forcucci’s attorney contends.
And attorney Margaret Murphy said if Yoviene did not vote, there would not have been the necessary four votes to bring the charges.
“Yoviene cannot be both accuser and judge,” the petition to the commissioner states.
The board voted, 4-2, last week to bring charges against Forcucci for “confrontational” actions it said interfered with the board’s ability to conduct business. The five-page document lists 11 specifications against her, including that she berated and verbally attacked the board president, Superintendent Richard Jetter, a principal and the superintendent’s secretary. She also is charged with refusing to return items to executive session on three occasions and of taking photographs of personnel records.
Since the charges were made, the superintendent’s cars were vandalized twice, and he received a threatening note. Speculation abounds in the community about who targeted the cars.
The petition to the commissioner includes affidavits from Forcucci’s husband and daughter vehemently denying any involvement.
The School Board did not set a hearing date for the charges Tuesday; Jetter and Yoviene said the board is working on finding acceptable dates. Jetter said the hearing dates would be posted on the district website as executive session meetings. The board, which refused to release the charges, plans to hold the hearing behind closed doors.
But Murphy does not believe the hearing should go forward, citing a 1973 State Supreme Court decision involving the removal of a board member.
Jetter said the district had no comment because the petition had just been served Tuesday.
But Andrew Freedman, the district’s attorney, said last week he does not believe that the decision from Duchess County has precedence in this area. He said the case in question involved criminal charges being brought by one board member against another, and Yoviene has not brought criminal charges against Forcucci.
“I don’t believe that it applies here,” Freedman said. “I believe there is a difference.”
Tuesday night’s meeting – the last before next week’s School Board election and budget vote – was quiet and lasted less than an hour, and featured recognition of several students and high school math teacher Michelle Hill, who was named a master teacher by New York State.
Two leaders of Hamburg Education Information, a group formed last year in the wake of turmoil in the district, advised residents at the meeting to know the candidates before they vote.
“We need to fix this problem. We need to fix it in a week. We need not to take chances. We took chances last time and we paid for it dearly,” parent Ed Piazza said. “Don’t take chances. We know who we can trust.”
He also denied that anyone was bullied into dropping out of the race. Candidate Kevin Steffan last week said he was withdrawing because of rumors that he was part of the minority faction on the board, though he later changed his mind. He said attorney and parent Daniel Chiacchia, a leader of the community group, had posted the rumor on his Facebook page.
“From the time we’re little kids, we’re taught be careful who you hang around with, because people will judge you by your associations,” Piazza said.