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With 'sabotage,' 'duplicity' at issue, Depew School Board seeks advice

The Depew School Board is seeking legal advice on whether accusations of "sabotage" and "duplicity" against a member related to the May 15 election are a board issue.

At Tuesday's board meeting, Steven A. Carmina, a former member and president, accused Diane M. Benczkowski of trying to sabotage the campaigns of incumbents Patrick S. Law and David M. Sheff.

He cited an email she sent May 6 to both candidates saying that Cheektowaga Council Member Jerry Kaminski had asked her to get word to Sheff and Law to remove their campaign signs from his Losson Road property.

Kaminski said Wednesday that he did not make that request. He and his wife, Kathy, characterized the sign issue as "a big mix-up."

Law, appointed by the board last fall to replace Carmina, who had resigned, lost his bid for a three-year term by 16 votes to Justin P. Young. Benczkow-ski backed Young, who was sworn in Tuesday. Sheff won re-election to a second term.

Law has called on Benczkowski to resign, accusing her of "a blatant lack of integrity." Asked whether the board would take any action in the matter, board President John Spencer said Wednesday, "I can't comment at this time. There is a fine line where the accusations stand now. I have a call in to the school district's attorney on whether this is a board issue."

Benczkowski asserts that the matter is "not a board issue."

"This has become a he-said/she-said. It was all just a misunderstanding. My intentions were not vicious. They were misinterpreted," Benczkowski said Wednesday.

Kaminski said Wednesday that he recalls telling Benczkowski and Young that Young's campaign signs could be placed on his property.

"Unbeknownst to me, my wife had talked to Carmina who asked if signs for Sheff and Law could be put up," Kaminski said.

Kathy Kaminski said, "I told some people they could put signs up, and [her husband] told some people the same thing, and I think this is all just a big mix-up."

At Tuesday's board meeting, Carmina referenced the May 6 email Benczkowski sent to Law and Sheff advising them that Kaminski "just called me" and that "he only gave Justin Young permission to put signs up on his property since he is a friend of the family."

"He asked if I could get the word out to both of you to take your signs down as it is private property," the email reads.

Kaminski said he never asked Benczkowski to ask Sheff and Law to remove their signs. He also said he has met Young only once. In an interview after Tuesday's meeting adjourned, Law also said that Benczkowski called him from the Cheektowaga Town Board meeting May 7 "claiming" that Kaminski had again asked her to do something about the signs.

In a May 8 email to Benczkowski and copied to other board members, Law called on her "to step down."

"I have never mistaken your opposition to me, and I can respect good old-fashioned political opposition, except the School Board is a nonpartisan body. You seem to forget that," Law wrote in the email.

He accused her of "a blatant lack of integrity in this matter" and said she "callously misrepresented statements of one of the Cheektowaga town councilmen in order to damage Dave Sheff's and my campaigns."