Hearing delays cost taxpayers more than $300K

SALAMANCA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A disciplinary hearing for Charles “Chuck” Crist, the principal at Seneca Elementary School in Salamanca, has cost taxpayers between $300,000 and $400,000.

Crist remained on paid leave for around 1,800 days before being exonerated of charges that have been brought against him from the district.

According to district officials, since 2009, the state did not come up with the funds to pay a hearing office to handle the case.

Salamanca School Board member Robert Crandall said, “The state in my opinion just hung us out to dry because it wasn’t in their priorities to get the arbitrators paid in this situation, so the case just sat.”

Crist, who once played NFL football for the Giants, San Francisco and New Orleans in the 1970s, says he plans on returning to his job at Seneca Elementary after 51 months of paid leave. He collected between $300,000 and $400,000 in salary alone while waiting for this case to be resolved.

“I have every intention of resuming my career, only because of the support that I received from the staff. And I do miss the kids,” he said.

Administrative staff had to be shuffled around to fill the void created by delays in case. The Department of Education has now changed the process requiring cases to be settled in about 125 days. Delays under the old rules caused many problems, according to Regent Bob Bennett.

“That’s very ineffective for all concerned, including the person that’s being disciplined, so this change is long overdue. I’m glad it’s happened,” Bennett said.

But the case may still not be over. The Salamanca School Board meets Wednesday morning and members could appeal the ruling.

If they do, the case could go before the State Supreme Court, at which time the records, previously sealed, would become public.

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