Today, The News takes a look at the controversy in the Hamburg schools. One of the points of contention has been the district's decision to change attorneys.
Shortly after taking a seat on the Hamburg School Board, Sally Stephenson successfully pushed for the removal of the Harris Beach law firm as the district’s attorneys, replacing Harris Beach with James D. Tresmond, 73.
Before a special July meeting, Stephenson had already formed a majority to dismiss Harris Beach and hire Tresmond at $110,000 a year.
Critics of the move say the change was pushed through with only a few minutes of discussion. They note that Tresmond, former principal of a school at the state’s Masten Park juvenile detention center, has no previous experience representing school districts in any court.
According to Daniel Chiacchia, the only reason Tresmond got the Hamburg job is that “he’s good friends with Sally.”
“We found that his wife Marcia was the reference that Lindsey Stephenson used to get her teaching job at Hamburg,” Chiacchia said.
He said Stephenson had a conflict of interest and should have disclosed that information to other board members when she proposed Tresmond as the district’s lawyer.
Marcia Tresmond said she did give Lindsey Stephen a positive recommendation, but only because both she and Lindsey had worked for Erie Community College, and she knew Lindsey was a good worker. She and Tresmond said they know Sally Stephenson but are not close friends with her.
Tresmond said he devotes “15 to 20” hours a week to representing the district. He said the job has been difficult for him because the district’s former attorneys refuse to turn over records of past and ongoing district litigation.
“I need the records that were generated so I can represent the district,” he said.
The records have not been turned over, but Harris Beach attorneys Richard T. Sullivan and Marnie E. Smith said their firm is not to blame.
“We have been cooperative with Mr. Tresmond,” Sullivan said.
Harris Beach has never received any direction from the School Board to turn records over to Tresmond, and “they’re the board’s records,” Sullivan said.
He and Smith added that, in their view, Tresmond has failed to follow proper legal procedures for obtaining the records.
Meanwhile, there has been a shift in the board’s sentiments on Tresmond. On Nov. 12, members voted 5-2 to seek proposals for someone to replace him.
- Dan Herbeck and Barbara O’Brien