Appeals judge declines to upset order opening Hamburg school hearings

School board

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Both sides in a Hamburg school board dispute are headed to a court hearing on June 11.

Appellate Division Justice Gerald J. Whalen declined Friday to upset a lower court’s order to open the hearings.

The Hamburg school board has been conducting closed hearings on misconduct charges against board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci.  The board voted to close the sessions from the public and conducted three closed sessions on May 27, 28 and June 4.

The district has cancelled sessions planned for Thursday and Friday rather than abide by an order from Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin to open the hearings.

Both sides will make their arguments Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. before Devlin. Her decision will determine whether the next hearing set for June 11 is open to the public.

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

Forcucci’s attorney, Margaret A. Murphy, argued before the first hearing on May 27 that the session should be open. Some of the board members agreed.

At the end of that session, Murphy told News 4 that the public should have the opportunity to hear the facts and evidence “that may change a lot of people’s minds in this community as to what’s been going on in the last year.”

Murphy filed a court challenge Wednesday to the board’s closed door decision which resulted in Devlin’s order that any future hearings must be open pending oral arguments before her on June 11.

Forcucci was elected to the Hamburg school board on May 21, 2013 for a three-year term.

In a 4-2 vote, board members on April 30 moved to charge Forcucci with official misconduct.

Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government has told News 4 that the Hamburg hearings are quasi-judicial proceedings that must be open to the public.

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