Judge rules Hamburg misconduct hearings must be public

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – A State Supreme Court judge Wednesday ruled that the Hamburg School District must open its misconduct hearings to the public.

The first open session is expected tonight in an ongoing effort by a board majority to oust Catherine Schrauth Forcucci on misconduct allegations.

Forcucci, her attorneys and some Hamburg School Board members have been saying from the beginning that the disciplinary hearing against Forcucci needs to be public.

Last week, Judge Diane Devlin ordered the board to open hearings pending Wednesday’s oral arguments.

The board voted to close the sessions from the public and conducted three closed sessions on May 27, 28 and June 4. Reporters and the public were barred from the Hamburg School Administration building during the three sessions.
The district cancelled sessions planned for June 5 and 6 rather than abide by Devlin’s order to open the hearings.

Forcucci’s attorney Margaret A. Murphy said, “I had every confidence that with the law on our side that this would be the outcome. Elected officials need to be held accountable for their conduct and that not only means elected officials who are brought up on charges of official misconduct but also the people who are going to pass on those charges.”

Hamburg School Board Attorney Andrew Freedman said, “The board looks forward to concluding this hearing as quickly and expeditiously as possible and have a decision reached on the merits.”

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 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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