Tempers flared and one Hamburg Central School Board member got fed up and stormed out of Tuesday night’s meeting after another board member wanted to call in the state comptroller and attorney general to audit payments to lawyers.
The ruckus came about 45 minutes into the regular portion of the meeting, which started at 8 p.m., after the board had spent two and a half hours in executive session. The Middle School cafeteria was hot and steamy, and filled with parents, staff and a few students.
Catherine Schrauth Forcucci made the motion to have the state audit the district’s books in light of large fees paid to the district’s former legal firm, Harris Beach. Board members said they did not know exactly how much was paid, but Board Member Sally Stephenson said the bill for one month was $60,000.
But other board members objected to the motion, which ultimately was voted down.
“I have a problem with this. This is a time bomb that is thrown on us at the last minute,” President David Yoviene said, “This is a bomb being thrown at the board and I don’t like it.”
Thomas F. Flynn III, a board member who found himself in the minority when newly elected board members took office in July, said the proposal continues an agenda of new members.
“This is obviously a continuation of kicking a dead horse,” he said. “You guys came in with an agenda.”
He said the agenda started when Forcucci and two other new board members took their oath of office July 1 so they could call an emergency meeting July 2. The new majority fired Harris Beach and brought in a new attorney, James Tresmond, without full discussion by the board, he said.
Forcucci objected to Flynn’s discussion of the hiring, and Yoviene ruled her out of order and told her to let Flynn continue, but she continued interrupting him.
“You want to go on your own witch hunt now,” Flynn told Forcucci.
“Excuse me, have you seen the Harris Beach bills?” she asked.
“No, I did not. You’re on a witch hunt, just as you’re claiming everyone else is,” Flynn exclaimed, as he picked up his papers in disgust, stood up and stormed out of the school.
A recess was quickly called, and the meeting resumed about 10 minutes later, when Flynn returned. Flynn apologized for his blow-up during a brief interview with The Buffalo News after the meeting.
“You will ask the chair for permission to speak,” Yoviene announced to the board after the meeting resumed, and he moved Forcucci’s seat away from Flynn.
Then Interim Superintendent, Richard E. Jetter, stood up and spoke to the audience that remained.
“We had a terrific opening of school. The kids are on fire, the staff is on fire,” he said, reminding everyone of students in the audience, and apologizing for the outburst. The board voted down Forcucci’s proposal, 5-2, with Stephenson joining Forcucci in favor.
There was a discussion of starting the search for a new superintendent, and the board asked that requests for proposals be sent to search firms.
“I think after tonight’s performance,” said Yoviene, “it’s going to be tough to get someone to apply to this district.”