HAMBURG — Testimony from a Hamburg Central School District employee and School Board President David Yoviene were the central focus of the Aug.4 meeting, which included detailed allegations stating “irate, irrational behavior” of embattled Board Member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci, as well as Schrauth Forcucci allegedly offering via text message an improvement of her behavior in exchange for the re-hiring of a former district employee identified as a friend of hers.
Jody McNamara, who works as a senior clerk-typist in pupil services the district, described in detail an incident in which Schrauth Forcucci confronted district Superintendent Richard Jetter at the administration building. Jetter was recently placed on leave after admitting to Hamburg police he fabricated a story about his vehicle being damaged during a school board meeting. A Sept. 24, 2013 incident included McNamara working overtime past her regular shift end making copies on the floor on which Jetter and Schrauth Forcucci were present. She testified that she witnessed Schrauth Forcucci confronting Jetter in an angry manner outside of the then-interim superintendent’s office, after McNamara had buzzed Schrauth Forcucci into the building upon the board member allegedly claiming she had an appointment. According to McNamara, Jetter calmly asked Schrauth Forcucci three separate times if she would stop yelling and leave the area, which she did not do, even after Jetter told McNamara, on three separate occasions, to call police.
However, according to McNamara’s testimony, Schrauth Forcucci did not calm herself, yelling in a “very irate, irrational manner, screaming,” according to the clerk. Schrauth Forucci, who was seeking specific reports from Jetter, then followed McNamara down to her basement office, and, as police answered the senior clerk-typist’s call, stood in front of McNamara’s desk in a threatening manner.
“She would not leave,” McNamara said, of Schrauth Forcucci, whom the senior clerk typist said she was not familiar with, prior to the incident, “I just thought, there was a crazy person in the office yelling at the superintendent.”
McNamara added that Schrauth Forcucci, who was wearing her postal work uniform at the time, did not calm down until police arrived, displaying, at that time, “a completely different demeanor” than that of a few minutes prior.
“She had been yelling, screaming right in [Jetter’s] face in the hallway,” said McNamara. “Then, after police arrived and questioned the parties involved became calm, a totally different person. [Earlier] she was totally unglued.”
Later in the hearing, Yoviene described several other incidents involving Schrauth Forcucci- – ones stated as violating various district codes of ethics – including the supposed bombardment of Jetter during the superintendent hiring process, a verbal attack on district Safety Coordinator James Martinez, and advocating for the re-hiring of former employee Chuck Mahoney. According to Yoviene, an October incident involved Schrauth Forcucci verbally berating Jetter in a finger-wagging fashion. She also allegedly had demanded a very large district regulations book from the superintendent and acted unruly.
“She had no respect for Dr. Jetter and didn’t demonstrate civility at all,” Yoviene said, of the board member. “She was acting as an individual, not as a [district] team [member].”
The board president also spoke of the text message – noted as being entered into district evidence – that indicated Yoviene needed to “do something about the injustice done to [Mahoney],” an employee who had been dismissed from his job about a decade ago, then followed up with a later lawsuit against former board Member Matthew Dils. The message reportedly included the sentiment that if Yoviene assisted in this matter, then Schrauth Forucci would improve her behavior toward district officials and stop interfering with the flow of school board meetings and work sessions.
“[The text message indicated] that Catherine used her improper behavior as a bargaining chip to get [Mahoney] his job back,” said Yoviene. “She said she’d stand down from [previous bad] behavior. The text indicates that her conduct was done intentionally. She texted that she’d behave like a normal board member. But, at that point, I had stopped communicating [outside of meetings] with Catherine altogether.”
The board president added that, although district officials had discussed the item of Mahoney’s job, it was not viewed as a realistic or possible action that would have proceeded. Hamburg District Attorney Andrew J. Freedman, who along with Schrauth Forcucci attorney Margaret Murphy questioned the witnesses, noted that Schrauth Forcucci’s intentions via text message could be construed as being an ulterior motive that the board president, at the time, was likely not aware of.
During a Feb. 11 incident, Yoviene stated, Schrauth Forcucci not only berated Martinez – who had been accompanying board members in a general, non-threatening manner to an executive session – following a superintendent candidate interview, but also compromised an interview with Jetter by asking non-relevant questions that were not asked of two previous candidates.
“All hell broke loose,” deadpanned Yoviene, in reference to that evening’s events. “[Schrauth Forcucci] was screaming ‘Mr. President, why is Jim Martinez [walking with us]? She yelled to [Martinez] that it was ‘her workplace’ and that he’s harassing her. But [Martinez] never had engaged Catherine and she verbally attacked him. She was disrespectful and completely unhinged. She ruins every executive session and doesn’t listen to the chairman.”
The board president added that three times Schrauth Forcucci went outside the meeting room to berate Martinez, causing alarm for interviewee Jetter and his wife, while also delaying the regular meeting with her actions by at least 20 minutes. Additionally, it was stated that while the two other superintendent interviews were pleasant and calm, Jetter’s was monopolized by Schrauth Forcucci’s sudden bizarre and unrelated questions. Also, Yoviene alleged that Schrauth Forcucci yelled at the top of her lungs and poked the board president in the chest forcefully “three to four times.”
“I just wanted her to sit down, behave and to stop acting like a child,” said Yoviene. “I felt disrespected.”
In an incident that occured on March 11, Yoviene noted several actions of Schrauth Forcucci, including stated attempts to intimidate speakers during public session by standing behind board members and staring at them with her arms folded. She also was reported as having refusing to follow points of order during the meeting and made rude comments to the newly appointed superintendent. Moreso, said Yoviene, Schrauth Forcucci was involved in a bathroom incident with district employee Jen Lacke, allegedly blocking Lacke’s departure from the bathroom while demanding specifics of a cell phone number that had been circulated. These actions, Yoviene, said caused Lacke to be shaken and upset.
The Aug. 4 public hearing lasted about five hours, taking place at Armor Elementary School in front of a packed audience. Open hearings, at least one of which should include testimony from Schrauth Forucci, will take place Aug. 7, 9 and 13.