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ethicsthb.jpgAs the Buffalo school board’s ethics committee is expected to announce its findings on Tuesday, April 15, regarding charges that members of the school board leaked information to the media, it may be reasonable to inquire if certain members should be sitting on the panel in the first place.

The ethics committee is currently debating a slew of charges including those brought by school board members Chris Jacobs (vs. whoever leaked information from an alleged executive session of the school board to the media), Florence Johnson (vs. Catherine Nugent-Panepinto, for talking to the press), and Ralph Hernandez (vs. Superintendent Williams, for mishandling the Discovery School incident).

Both Hon. James A. W. McLeod, chairman of the ethics committee, and Hon. Craig D. Hannah, who joined the nine-member group late, last Tuesday, appear to be presiding there in conflict with New York State standards and administrative policies pertaining to judicial conduct.

According to the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York, “A full-time judge shall not accept appointment to a governmental committee or commission or other governmental position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy in matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.”

Therefore, weighing in on the activities of the school board would seem to be outside the scope of prescribed behavior for any full-time sitting city court judge.

There is good reason for this policy. It would be unlikely—but possible—that anyone wishing to appeal the ethics panel’s findings could find themselves standing before either McLeod or Hannah in a court of law.

The New York State Regulations go on to say: “A judge shall not serve as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor if it is likely that the organization: (I) will be engaged in proceedings that ordinarily would come before the judge; or (II) if the judge is a full-time judge, will be engaged regularly in adversary proceedings in any court.”

These rules are in place to keep judges above the fray and advise against “extra-judicial activities in general” so as not to cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge; detract from the dignity of judicial office; or interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.

As the board of education and the school board continue to devolve into chaos in the wake of outrageous actions, convoluted cover-ups, and heated finger-pointing—who will remain impartial on the city court to decide cases that may still come before the bench as a result of the ongoing mayhem?

  • Peter A Reese

    I may have attended public schools, but I still know how to read and comprehend English. How can anyone read these words of prohibition and conclude that it is OK for a full time judge to sit on the Buffalo Board of Education Ethics Committee? By what strained interpretation of this rule is such service exempt from official sanction? Or is there a special immunity for certain privileged individuals?

  • G J Petit

    Does anyone have anything to say about judge Mcleods reverse discrimination?

  • This comment may be a belated one but Christopher Jacobs should be the last person asking for an ethics committee hearing on information leaked to the media from an School Board Executive session. I recall in 2008 or 2007 someone on the School Board or district in Central Office leaked a memo Jacobs wrote to the media specifically Jacobs had written about the two Board members allegedly meddling (Hernandez & Kapsiak) into personnel appointments. He argued it was improper and cited the names of the administrators either removed from their jobs and transferred and those waiting for an appointment from an executive session Board meeting. The first persons to see the letter allegedly before the Board members Jacobs and the Superintendent Williams, then it mysteriously appeared on the desk of Peter Simon at the Buffalo News. The letter arrived the same day written. It’s interesting what Christopher Jacobs gets away with while he questions and investigates everyone else. If the letter arrived to the Buffalo News the same day written, it’s obvious who sent it.