Hamburg School Board President David M. Yoviene said Monday that a text message he received from fellow board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci proves that her alleged misconduct is intentional.
Schrauth Forcucci is facing 12 charges that she berated and/or verbally abused the superintendent, Yoviene and district staff. The board could remove her as a member if it finds her guilty.
Yoviene said the text message shows that she used her confrontational behavior as a “bargaining chip” to get a job for a friend.
“If we could correct the injustice to Chuck I would feel so much differently about dealing with the district and other board members,” the Jan. 13 message said.
Yoviene said the message refers to Charles F. Mahoney, a former teacher who was suing former board member Matthew A. Dils for defamation. He said that Mahoney is a friend of Schrauth Forcucci and that the message proves that her alleged misconduct was intentional.
“She was willing to use her behavior as a bargaining chip to get his job back,” Yoviene said.
This was the first hearing session to take place without Superintendent Richard E. Jetter, who was placed on administrative leave by the School Board on July 23.
Jetter, who spent three sessions on the witness stand testifying against Schrauth Forcucci, admitted to Village of Hamburg police that he filed a false report that his car was vandalized in a school parking lot. The car, he acknowledged, was damaged the night before, when he hit a utility pole in Buffalo. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the incident.
Schrauth Forcucci’s text message to Yoviene said she was sure that Mahoney would drop his lawsuit if he was hired by the district.
“I will stand down at meetings and follow your lead,” the message continues. “You may be remembered as the president who saved Hamburg from a huge tax increase or worse.”
Yoviene said that he did not reply but that Margaret A. Murphy, attorney for Schrauth Forcucci, produced the text message that Yoviene sent to her in reply: “I just met with Chuck and Sally (Stephenson). We agreed on a plan of action. Sally will fill you in.”
Yoviene also said, in response to a question from Murphy, that Schrauth Forcucci never took any formal action to have the board hire Mahoney.
The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Yoviene also agreed with Hamburg School District lawyer Andrew J. Freedman that Schrauth Forcucci’s calm demeanor during the hearing is different from what she exhibits at other times.
“Catherine becomes so angry so quickly it’s tough to predict what she would do,” Yoviene said. “She could hit somebody.” Yoviene said Schrauth Forcucci prolongs or interrupts every meeting, particularly executive sessions. “She doesn’t understand she is one member of a seven-member board,” he said.
Monday’s session was the first since July 2. The hearing, held in the Armor Elementary School cafeteria, was postponed to accommodate work and vacation schedules of board members and Murphy.
Schrauth Forcucci is accused of berating Yoviene and/or verbally attacking him, and “forcefully” placing her finger on his chest. The charges also state she was told in October that her “confrontational behavior was unacceptable.”
Yoviene, as board president, placed the charges against Schrauth Forcucci. The board will decide whether Schrauth Forcucci is guilty of official misconduct, and, if so, it could remove her from the board. She could appeal a removal to the state education commissioner.
Yoviene said last month that Schrauth Forcucci considered herself a “lone-wolf investigator,” trying to police the board, district and staff, often having “that ever-present finger-wagging in my face.”
Schrauth Forcucci, 51, entered her second year on the board July 1. She was elected in 2013, running on a slate with Yoviene and board member Laura J. Heeter, who also testified against her.
Yoviene is the seventh witness testifying for the district who has described yelling and obstreperous behavior from Schrauth Forcucci.