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Hamburg’s Schrauth Forcucci apologizes for single incident

Hamburg Central School Board Member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci Saturday apologized for an outburst at a school principal in February.

But the woman accused of official misconduct denied that she yelled, was irrational, irate and disrespectful to the superintendent, board president and other staff members over the past year.

She instead painted a picture of the board president and superintendent being disrespectful to her.

Saturday’s marathon 9½-hour session in Armor Elementary School brought the total length of the hearing to 45½ hours. The board made no decision Saturday. It will wait about two weeks while the transcript is completed and the hearing officer completes his recommendations on each of 12 charges for the board.

Then, the board will meet to decide whether she is guilty of official misconduct. If she is guilty, the board could remove her from the seat she has held since July 1, 2013. If that happens, she has said she will appeal to the state education commissioner.

Schrauth Forcucci’s five-hour testimony was marked by her apology to the board and superintendent for an incident occurring the night then-interim Superintendent Richard E. Jetter was to be interviewed for the permanent position. Jetter was placed on paid administrative leave July 23 after he was charged with falsely reporting to police that vandals damaged his car. He later admitted that he caused the damage.

“I am sorry I showed disrespect to the office of School Board member and to the board, and to Dr. Jetter and his wife,” she said. “I regret the situation. I should have stated my position once, and moved on. I am sorry that I did that and I caused problems for that night.”

Schrauth Forcucci had argued with James Martinez, district safety officer and Boston Valley principal, that night.

She said she also has several regrets about arguing with Martinez: “I regret losing my temper,” she said. “I regret wasting my time with someone who doesn’t show me respect. I regret nothing is going to change.”

She said her apology does not excuse her behavior that night.

The recollections of Schrauth Forcucci, and of the three witnesses who testified for the defense, differed sharply from those of witnesses for the district, who said she berated and verbally attacked district officials on different occasions.

Schrauth Forcucci said she was not irate or irrational during an incident with the superintendent in the administration building Sept. 24.

“I was not in his face,” she said, referring to Jetter’s testimony that she was in his personal space.

Schrauth Forcucci said she decided to drop into the administration building about 5 p.m. that day to see Jetter after getting an e-mail that more than 700 pages of legal bills would not be printed out but would be on a flash drive, and it would take two more weeks.

She said she rang the bell to be admitted, and said, “Rick Jetter, please.” The clerk who admitted her testified Schrauth Forcucci said she had an appointment with the superintendent. Schrauth Forcucci said the conversation with the superintendent was calm, until she told him she saw some “hypocrisy in the district.”

“Are you calling me a hypocrite?” Jetter said, according to Schrauth Forcucci.

She said he became alarmed and seemed to go on the “offensive,” she said. She said he told her she disrespected him and four of his staff members.

While Jetter testified he tried to de-escalate the situation, “he did not seem to be working toward a resolution,” Schrauth Forcucci said.

Jetter asked her to leave three times, saying, “I’m feeling threatened and harassed by you.”

“I said, ‘Rick, I am not leaving. I did not violate the code of conduct,’ ” she said.

A police officer responded and he asked her to leave, and she did.

Also testifying were Melissa Miller, a part-time substitute cleaner for the district, and former district lawyer James Tresmond. Schrauth Forcucci accompanied Miller to district offices to look at her personnel file, and Tresmond was present during executive sessions and an incident that occurred outside a Buffalo law office. They said they did not see her act in a confrontational or irate manner in interactions they observed.

The defense also played videos of parts of three board meetings.

District lawyer Andrew Freedman said in his closing argument that Schrauth Forcucci was unhinged, aggressive, disrespectful, inappropriate and had uncontrollable extended outbursts toward officials and staff.

“The board was not attempting to silence her message,” he said, but added her method of delivering her message was inappropriate.

Margaret Murphy, Schrauth Forcucci’s lawyer, urged board members to watch the film, “Twelve Angry Men,” which is about a jury deliberating. She said Schrauth Forcucci came under fire when it became clear she would not support Jetter for the permanent superintendent position. She said if board members listened to her client, “maybe you would see some validity in what she is saying.”