Richard E. Jetter, now on leave from his job as the superintendent of the Hamburg Central School District, told village police Monday that he was drinking the night he hit a pole in South Buffalo – a day before he reported to police that his car was vandalized during a school board meeting, according to a statement he gave police Monday before checking into BryLin Hospital.
According to the handwritten statement obtained by The Buffalo News, Jetter said:
“On May 5, 2014, I visited a bar with another administrator and walked back to that administrator’s house so that I would become sober. The range of time was approximately 5:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Upon leaving, I scraped up against a telephone pole near this administrator’s house in Buffalo.
“On May 6, 2014, I worked a full day without anyone noticing any damage to my car. I drove to a Board of Education mtng [meeting] that evening and when I came out, many people saw the damage to my car.
“A police report was filed that my car was vandalized at Union Pleasant Elementary School by me.”
Hamburg Village Police announced today that they served a criminal summons on Jetter for falsely reporting an incident.
He has been charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, a class “A” misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail.
On May 6, school board members and others attending a meeting at Union Pleasant Elementary stared in shock at damage to Jetter’s car. He said he found a note under the windshield that read that read: “Watch your back, you (expletive) sleezebag.” Village police were called and Jetter filed a report with them.
The vandalism report helped rally support for Jetter in the trouble-plagued district. The damage to Jetter’s car was used to keep a misconduct hearing of School Board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci behind closed doors, although a judge later ordered the proceedings to be held in public.
The statement Jetter made Monday aligns in many ways with an account by a witness who met with an investigator hired by Forcucci’s attorney, Margaret Murphy. The witness also spoke with The Buffalo News and said that the damage happened in South Buffalo on May 5, the day before the School Board meeting.
The witness said a man driving what appeared to be the superintendent’s car accidentally struck a brown wooden utility pole.
The witness does not want to be identified because of the controversy surrounding the district.
The witness said the damage occurred between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 5, the day before Jetter told Hamburg village police it occurred during the School Board meeting. The car had been parked on one side of the street in South Buffalo, and it was after 6 p.m., when alternate parking kicked in and the car had to be moved to the other side of the street, the witness said.
The witness described to the private investigator and later confirmed for The News this scene of May 5:
A man was walking with a resident of the street in South Buffalo. The News has confirmed the other person works for the Hamburg district.
The two were walking down the street holding plastic cups, and the resident went into a house, while the man went to move his car. He pulled into a driveway across the street, then backed across the street into a driveway to turn around and in the process the car sideswiped the pole.
The man got out of the car, looked at the damage, and laughed. He moved the car into the resident’s driveway. The resident came out of the house, spoke with the man, and both went into the house.
The person who lives in the house, who The News is not identifying, did not confirm or deny the incident.
“I cannot confirm what happened to Rick Jetter’s mirror,” the resident said.
When The Buffalo News asked Jetter about the witness’ account on July 11, Jetter said he was with a friend that evening, but it was not the person who lives on the South Buffalo street. He also said he was not in the area where the witness said the accident occurred.
Hamburg Village Police Chief Dennis Gleason said Jetter’s statement to police on Monday came amid an investigation into his report to police.
“There were several leads we were working on,” Gleason said.
The investigation is still continuing, the police chief added.
Gleason said the summons was served to Jetter’s personal attorney today.
The charge does not address the threatening note that was found on the car. “This is for reporting that the car was damaged,” Gleason said. “The note has nothing to do with it at all.”
A source in the Hamburg Central School District told The Buffalo News that Jetter admitted to making up the vandalism claim to police, as well as a district employee before going to the hospital Monday. On Tuesday, the district announced that Jetter was being investigated by police. Wednesday, an interim superintendent, Colleen Kaney, was named and Jetter was placed on administrative leave.
Jetter is to appear in Village Court Aug. 6 to answer the misdemeanor charge.