Turmoil continues in the Hamburg Central School District, with one School Board candidate pulling out of the race because of what he said is a “horrible rumor” that he is connected with Vice President Sally A. Stephenson.
Kevin R. Steffan could not be reached to comment Thursday, but he made clear on his Facebook page that a rumor is causing him to end his candidacy.
“There is a horrible rumor out there spiraling out of control,” Steffan said on Facebook. “I am in no way running to help Sally Stephenson and do not want that connection. My reputation and family are too important.”
With the budget vote and election for two School Board members less than two weeks away, the pace of turbulent events in the district seems to have quickened.
Last week, the School Board filed official misconduct charges against one of its members. Two days ago, someone struck the superintendent’s car in a school parking lot, leaving the left side dented and the mirror damaged, and a note warning him to watch his back.
Wednesday afternoon, teachers held a rally in support of Superintendent Richard E. Jetter, and Wednesday night, Steffan and four other candidates attended a forum before 200 residents at Charlotte Elementary School. He said nothing of his intention to pull out; his Facebook post was made after the forum.
While Steffan may want out of the race, he had not formally notified the district clerk of his intentions by late Thursday afternoon.
“Until I get an official notice from any candidate, they are not withdrawn,” District Clerk Barbara S. Sporyz said.
She said the absentee ballots were sent out Wednesday. If Steffan officially withdraws from the race, votes for him would not be counted, she said.
“If somebody does cast a vote for a withdrawn candidate, that vote becomes null for that one individual,” she said.
Board President David M. Yoviene said he heard Thursday morning that Steffan, a graduate of Hamburg High School and a teacher in the Pembroke Central School District, was planning to pull out, but he urged him to continue his candidacy.
“I heard this morning he was dropping out because he didn’t want people throwing mud at his family,” Yoviene said. “Instantly the rumor mill starts to fly that Kevin is connected somehow to that radical fringe.”
Stephenson, vice president of the board, frequently votes in the minority with board members Catherine Schrauth Forcucci and Holly A. Balaya. The board voted, 4-2, last week to charge Forcucci with official misconduct. Stephenson and Balaya voted against the action.
Stephenson said she did not know Steffan until this year when he spoke out at a board meeting.
“I thought he was an articulate young man,” she said.
Stephenson said she signed his petition seeking the board seat after a board meeting.
“I thought, ‘What a great candidate, someone who knows what it’s like to be a teacher, someone who grew up in this community,’ ” she said.
Yoviene said Steffan was “heartbroken” when he talked to him Thursday.
“I said, ‘Don’t you drop out,’ ” Yoviene said. “It’s absolutely wrong.”
Steffan said in the Facebook posting that he thought the forum went well. He thanked residents for their support and said that he is supporting Cameron B. Hall and incumbent board member Thomas F. Flynn III in the election.
“This goes deeper than I ever imagined and want to maintain my reputation,” Steffan wrote. “Vote for the moral people, that’s what I stand for and they are qualified candidates.”
A posting earlier this week by Steffan declared his independence, and said that “a local attorney with vested interest promoted some untruths about me.”
Hamburg attorney Daniel J. Chiacchia is well-known in the district for pushing for the removal of Stephenson, Balaya and Forcucci. He said he had posted on his Facebook page that rumors were that Steffan had something to do with the Stephenson camp. He said he has since talked with Steffan.
“I have no ill will toward him. I don’t think he has ill will toward me. I kind of like the kid,” Chiacchia said.
He said it was a “public perception” that Steffan was connected with Stephenson because he was seen talking with her at a School Board meeting.
“It’s not anything I said,” Chiacchia said.
Stephenson blamed Chiacchia for Steffan wanting to pull out.
“It’s a shame that an individual can go around and intimidate candidates and get them to resign,” Stephenson said. “Where is the democracy?”