NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls School District’s new chief financial officer comes from a Central New York district rife with controversy over the last several years.
William E. Hamilton spent a decade as assistant superintendent of business and finance for the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District, just west of Syracuse.
The district put Hamilton on paid leave in 2010 amid a shake-up in the administration that saw the superintendent forced out and other administrators suspended, demoted or forced to leave.
Hamilton, a tenured administrator at Jordan-Elbridge, faced a hearing last June as the district sought his dismissal. In October, he filed a lawsuit seeking $7.25 million in damages from the district, alleging retaliation.
The FBI also probed the district in 2011 after an audit, and earlier this year police said a former athletic director may face charges after he repaid about $12,000 in missing money from ticket sales.
The Syracuse Post-Standard reported on the circumstances at Jordan-Elbridge over the last four years.
Falls Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco said she would not comment about the circumstances at the Onondaga County school district, which has about 1,400 students and an annual budget of about $30 million.
“I like his ethics, and I like his vast knowledge of finance,” Bianco said when asked what made Hamilton stand out among the eight candidates interviewed.
The superintendent also said she liked his business experience. Hamilton lists as previous employers on his résumé Silicon Energy Corp. of Alameda, Calif.; AXS Marketing and North American Energy Conservation, both of Syracuse; and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.
Hamilton starts his new job in the Falls today. Last week, after about a 90-minute executive session with Hamilton and members of the administration, all eight School Board members present voted to hire him on a three-month contract as the district’s administrator for school business services. Hamilton succeeds Timothy J. Hyland, who retired as of Monday but who will be working as a consultant for the district, as needed, for a transitional period.
Hamilton, who is originally from the Syracuse area and has lived in Skaneateles for the last 30 years, declined to comment when asked about various circumstances at his former school district. He did say that both his lawsuit and the June 2013 hearing are still pending.
The Post-Standard reported last October that in his lawsuit, Hamilton alleges he was the subject of a witch hunt by former School Board members after he criticized how the board treated an elementary school principal in the district.
In June of last year, his attorney called the 128 allegations he faced from the district “frivolous.” In 2010, Hamilton told the Post-Standard he felt that his suspension was retaliation for his questioning the hours billed the district by an attorney.
Falls school officials said the three-month contract would allow time for matters to clear up and give them a chance to make sure that everything works out.
Hamilton, who has a degree in public administration from SUNY Cortland, takes over responsibility for financial matters including payroll, purchasing, budgeting and district business functions.
Under his contract, which runs through Sept. 30, Hamilton will be paid $400 per day plus up to $100 per day for food, lodging and travel expenses. Hyland was paid $126,222 in 2013, according to seethroughny.net.
Board President Russell J. Petrozzi said Hamilton was forthcoming, intelligent and seemed to have a good sense of educational issues statewide.
“He answered all the questions to everyone’s satisfaction,” Petrozzi said. “We brought him in as a consultant, and we’re confident things will work out.”