Ousted board member weighing appeal possibility

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – Catherine Scharauth Forcucci, who was removed from the Hamburg School Board after months of hearings, tells News 4 she is weighing her options now as she tries to decide whether or not to appeal.

Late Tuesday night Forcucci was removed from the board by a vote of 5 to 1. Hearing officer David Hoover found that she had engaged in acts of official misconduct.

“Her inappropriate conduct undermines public confidence in the board,” said Hoover, “and thereby hampers its ability to carry out its mission. These constitute grounds for removal.”

Connie Lynch, a mother whose children attend Hamburg schools, said, “I’m so glad it’s over with. I’m hoping they’ll focus on the school now. I feel that was such a distraction, such an embarrassment.”

Ed Piazza, who helped organize a concerned parent’s group, said having an independent hearing officer make recommendations was worth the time and expense, which could amount to more than $200,000.

“Hugely important,” he said, “because it showed the independence. I mean, this is a person from the outside that came in.”

Forcucci must now decide whether to appeal to the State Education Commissioner, and whether she will attempt to recover her legal fees. As she decides, she says she is thinking about what is best to do for herself, her family and the district.

Dr. Vince Coppola, now in his fifth day on the job as acting school superintendent, tells News 4, “If Catherine appeals, the commissioner will not take the normal length of time that he has in the past to get back with an answer. It think we’re going to get an answer quickly.”

Forcucci was found, among other things, to have berated Hamburg School Superintendent Dr. Richard Jetter, saying he had not been the best candidate for the job, and questioned some of the language in his contract.

Jetter, who now faces possible felony charges after police say he admitted he lied about damage to his car, is on paid administrative leave and still receiving his annual salary of $164,000 plus benefits. He recently pleaded not guilty to charges of filing a false report.

Dr. Coppola said, “No one wants to see anyone on administrative leave getting paid for not coming to work. I know that that is a burr under the saddle of a lot of citizens, but that’s the law.”

Forcucci had objected to Jetter’s contract, which does not address severance if he is fired.

Dr. Coppola said, “I don’t think the board is interested in buying out his contract for four-and-a-half years, especially with some of the charges that he’s facing.”

The Hamburg School Board may be in a better position to negotiate a deal if Jetter faces more serious charges, possibly working out a plea deal that gets the district off the hook.

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