Little testimony during hours-long Hamburg School District hearing

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Catherine Schrauth Forcucci, the long embattled board member in the Hamburg School District, was supposed to take the stand in her own defense Thursday night.

But despite three hours of questioning, there wasn’t much testimony, and Forcucci never made it to the stand. School district attorney Andrew Freedman objected to nearly all of the questions Forcucci’s attorney asked the few witnesses who testified Thursday night.

Forcucci has been charged with official misconduct and the board is looking to oust her. The hearings have continued despite the absence of Superintendent Dr. Richard Jetter, a key witness and opponent of Forcucci’s.

Jetter is currently on administrative leave and the board has asked for his resignation. Police say Jetter lied about a car accident, claiming his vehicle was vandalized. He is currently charged with filing a false report, but because he had the district reimburse him for his insurance deductible, he could face additional charges. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is examining the case.

Meanwhile, board president David Yoviene vowed to continue the hearings against Forcucci, saying she “could never change.”

The defense began Thursday night’s hearing by calling Principal Jim Martinez to the stand, but he did not testify. So Forcucci’s attorney, Margaret Murphy, instead call former board member Holly Balaya as a witness.

Balaya said during a September 3 board meeting where members discussed taking action against Forcucci, she walked out because she was so upset. She says Forcucci has not been loud or disruptive during executive sessions. Balaya says Yoviene “wanted to move things along” but Forcucci asked for clarification and information before voting.

Forcucci has repeatedly said that she is acting in the interest of the voters in trying to find out what is going on in the district. She claims she has been impeded every step of the way. Thursday night, Balaya said the board “was not a deliberative body. All of the decisions were made by two people: Dr. Jetter and Dave Yoviene.”

Murphy then tried to question Balaya about the incident involving Jetter’s car, in an attempt to establish his credibility or lack thereof, but the hearing officer stymied that line of questioning. Murphy responded by saying, “Okay. Maybe it didn’t happen then,” eliciting chuckles from the audience.

After a break, Freedman, Murphy and hearing officer agreed to enter Jetter’s statement to police, in which he purportedly confesses to damaging his own car, into the record. The hearing officer told the board the admission “raises serious questions” about Jetter’s credibility.

Jetter testified that Forcucci was hostile and aggressive, even once addressing him in a voice similar to that used by Jack Nicholsan’s character in “The Shining.”

Balaya continued her testimony, recalling a board meeting where there was a “mob mentality” against Forcucci, but said Forcucci “handled it better than I would.”

At times Thursday night, audience members rolled their eyes, muttered, and laughed out loud at the proceedings.

“It’s, how many different ways can we ask the same questions that don’t even apply to what’s happening?” said Linda Krencik. “We need to focus on our children. We need to move on, we need to get a working board together, they need to listen to one another.”

Kevin Steffan added, “I haven’t seen one thing about kids, education, what teachers should be doing, how to roll out this Common Core come the fall, how to continue the progress. It’s all about this adult bickering, which is absolutely embarrassing.”

The misconduct hearing against Forcucci will continue Saturday.