A packed room of supporters for former Williamsville South varsity basketball coach Al Monaco did nothing to sway the Williamsville School Board at Tuesday night's meeting. Before members of the public came forward to speak, board President Carrie Kahn read from a statement to douse any hope that Monaco might get his job back.
"We greatly respect the deliberate, thorough nature of Dr. Martzloff's six-month long evaluative process, which we believe was solely guided by doing what is best for the students," she said.
Martzloff removed Monaco as coach of South High School's varsity basketball and golf programs after 24 years of coaching in the district. He remains a health teacher at the school. Several families filed harassment complaints against the coach in June on behalf of their children, but police said their investigation resulted in no charges or violation findings.
Kahn told audience members they do not have all the information that is known to Martzloff and the board regarding Monaco's situation and concluded, "We believe the recommendation was made with due diligence, and we are 100 percent unified in our support of the action taken in this matter."
About 70 members of the public turned out in support of the coach, and nine spoke, including Monaco's brother and sister.
"We've looked at this investigation and found a lot of holes," said Lynn Monaco, a lawyer who heads corporate security for a major telecommunications firm. "No. 1, what is Al's terminable offense? You don't have to tell us here because of confidentiality, but please, Dr. Martzloff, tell Al. I've read the letter that you sent to him. Pretty vague."
She accused the district of not interviewing all administrative witnesses, of not reviewing all evidence and of punishing coach Monaco for taking a hard-line approach with bullies in the basketball program.
She urged the board to conduct its own investigation instead of simply accepting the superintendent's report, which she criticized as one-sided.
"This investigation wasn't thorough. It wasn't justice," she said, finishing to a standing ovation. "I'm an attorney in the State of New York, and I've got to tell you that if either I or my brother conducted an investigation the way this was done, we wouldn't have our jobs."
Ken Monaco, a brother, said afterward that as a senior federal investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor, "I'd be ashamed to present my conclusions based on shoddy evidence."
In response to the superintendent's and board's position that they can't share the reasons for Al Monaco's dismissal as coach for the protection of Monaco's privacy, Ken Monaco responded that the district's current actions already have destroyed a good man's reputation.
Several others spoke to attest to the coach's sense of honor, integrity and decency, but not everyone did so.
Parent Marvin Sanford, who was previously interviewed by The News and stated that his son was routinely subjected to derogatory comments regarding his weight until his son suffered a health crisis, spoke in defense of the district.
He said his harassment complaint with the Amherst Police Department regarding Monaco is still open and that his family is exploring options on how to proceed.
"I wanted to personally thank the Amherst Police Department, the school board and the superintendent," he said, "because you're praised sometimes, but when you make tough decisions, sometimes people want to get on you. But I thank you for conducting a through investigation in this matter and deciding accordingly."
Steve Allen, a friend of Monaco's whose son played for the coach for four years, said the district wronged a good man.
"If you're going to let this decision stand to oust coach Monaco, we the citizens of Williamsville - and I am a Williamsville citizen and resident - we are going to show what we feel like when you are up for election this fall or next fall, and we are not going to vote for you," he said.
Those familiar with Monaco's circumstances said the coach has been accused of poorly managing the basketball program and making demeaning comments toward players. They said there's been tension on the team between kids getting more playing time and kids getting less, and that the parents of players who saw little court action were behind the harassment complaint to police in June.
Martzloff did not address the audience during the meeting Tuesday, but said afterward that as part of the district's six-month investigation regarding Monaco, he spoke with athletic directors, coaches, support staff, community members, parents and the Amherst Police. He also said he spoke with Monaco several times.
"I've given the coach plenty of information, and if he wants to share it with others, he can." Martzloff said. "I've been pretty clear with Mr. Monaco about my reasons, and whether he chooses to accurately portray that with the media or the community, that's up to him."
He described the investigation and decision not to reappoint Monaco as coach as "an extremely difficult process" and said that if additional information came up that was pertinent to his employment status, he would review it.
"I feel bad for Mr. Monaco," Martzloff said. "I really do."