Ousted board member to continue fight that has cost $224K

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – After taking a week to think it over, ousted Hamburg School Board Member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci tells News 4 she will appeal to State Education Commissioner John King.

“Over the weekend I was contacted by people in the district, friends… board members from other districts. My attorney received calls from people urging me not to give up, to move forward, that this decision, I believe, sets a dangerous precedent for board members,” she said.

On September 2, Forcucci watched as a majority of her fellow school board members in Hamburg voted to remove her after a hearing officer found she had engaged in official misconduct.

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

Forcucci says losing her temper while fighting for issues she felt passionate about, should not have been reason for removal.

“I don’t think any of the charges, even if true, rose to official misconduct. I made some mistakes. I apologize for mistakes.”

In a News 4 Freedom of Information request, it was revealed that the Hamburg School District’s legal fees were $224,000 during a six-and-a-half month period the hearings went on. More than $102,000 was dedicated to the Forcucci hearings.

There were even more hearings that followed. Now there will be an additional cost to fight the appeal.

Hamburg School Board President Dave Yoviene tells News 4, “Certainly we’re disappointed because we’d like to end this chapter, but it was expected.”

Last week, Acting Hamburg School Superintendent Dr. Vince Coppola told News 4, in anticipation of an appeal, “I think we’re going to get an answer quickly (from Commissioner King).”

While some district officials are hoping for a quick decision, Forcucci’s attorney says the commissioner must consider the impact her removal might have on all outspoken school board members or candidates who challenge the majority’s way of thinking.

Margaret Murphy tells News 4, “If they brought an action like this, where they can use all their resources and you have to use your own resources to defend yourself, most people would decide to drop off.”

Forcucci says she could handle getting back on the board if she wins her appeal.

“I am committed to this district. It’s my hometown. My kids went to school here. I graduated from Hamburg. Hamburg can be a phenomenal district.”

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