Judge stops closed misconduct hearings

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – The State Supreme Court is intervening in the battle to remove a member of the Hamburg Central School Board.

On Thursday, State Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin granted attorneys for Catherine Schrauth Forcucci a temporary restraining order which, for the time being, will compel the school board to stop holding disciplinary hearings against Forcucci behind closed doors.

“As it stands now, the district and the Board of Education cannot conduct a hearing in executive session until the Judge hears and has been briefed fully on the merits of the case,” Margaret Murphy, one of Forcucci’s attorneys, told News 4 on Thursday afternoon. “We’re planning on going back into State Supreme Court before Judge Devlin on June 11 at 9:30 in the morning.”

In light of that ruling, the school board decided to cancel a hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday evening, rather than hold a session that would be open for the public and reporters to attend.

“The board is going to await further direction from the court before it proceeds,” said Andrew Freedman, the district’s attorney. “The district is also asking our appellate division to review the judge’s decision. In the meantime, the district will act as it always has here – in conformity with the law.”

Reporters and the public were barred from the Hamburg School Administration building during the first three hearings against Forcucci.

Forcucci is facing a number of misconduct charges alleging that she verbally accosted a fellow board member, the interim Superintendent and a building principal.

Murphy said Forcucci wants these proceedings conducted in the open, for the public to see and hear. She has maintained from the beginning that it is improper for the hearings to happen in executive session.

“The view that’s being taken by the board is that it’s their option whether to have this in an open-door session, or a closed-door session. If my client had been charged with some serious forms of misconduct, do you really think that they would want to do this behind closed doors?” asked Murphy. “I think the fact that they wanted to have it behind closed doors is proof of the fact that the evidence that they want to present is so superficial, that it could never arise to anybody’s conclusion that this is official misconduct.”

“Let the public see what is being done by their elected official[s],” Murphy said. “Let them be the one to judge.”

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