Brand new accusations surfaced in a Buffalo courtroom Thursday against a suspended McKinley High School principal. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley has details.
Crystal Boiling-Barton appeared in State Supreme Court in Buffalo Thursday morning asking to be reinstated. But it was during that court hearing attorneys for the Buffalo Public School District announced that they are investigating Barton for allegedly using student activity funds of total $22,000 over a ten year period.
Barton was placed on administrative leave from McKinley last May after she was challenged by a group of students. They accused Barton of ignoring requests from LGBTQ students who asked to form a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the school.
WBFO News reached Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) President Phil Rumore, who supports Barton, but says he knows nothing about the investigation of funds.
“I think some of the allegations against her are unfounded and I would be surprised if she did any of the things she was alleged to have done,” Rumore stated. “She cares about the kids and that is a school that is run-well when she was there, unfortunately with her gone, discipline, from what is being reported to us is becoming a real big problem. I’ve known Crystal Barton as a principal for many years and that's she not in her school is a disservice to the students in that school. We've had our battles with her, but I think she is a great principal and I would be very surprised if she did anything wrong.”
Rumore tells WBFO News McKinley teachers have approved a vote of 'no confidence' against the current interim McKinley principal.
Justice Diane Devlin sided with the school district at Thursday hearing, denying Barton's reinstatement motion. Barton she will remain on administrative leave.
Barton was named principal at McKinley in 1987. This is not the first controversy she has faced during her time at the high school. In 2008, Barton found herself at the center of a controversial suspension of one of the McKinley students.
WBFO also spoke with the city school district spokeswoman, Elena Cala. She confirmed there is an investigation into the spending, but due to the probe, the district could not make further comments on the matter.
Cala explained the district went to court to answer questions regarding Barton's reinstatement request.
Barton's Attorney, Robert Boreanaz, pressed as to why Barton was not being reinstated, the district's legal counsel, Michael Kuzma, revealed the investigation. He noted that in the course of a “general audit” by the district, "other discrepancies" were found involving $22,000 in student funds.
Boreanaz tells WBFO News his client doesn't deny buying items, but did not misuse funds.
"Every principal al in the district has a principal account, which they are to spend monies out of at their discretion for educational purposes. The district has audited Mrs. Barton's expenditures every single year for the past ten or more years. Each instance the auditor has given her a green light and approved her expenditures," Boreanaz stated.
Boreanaz said they will be returning to court for Barton's reinstatement.
"We absolutely are returning to court. We're in federal court challenging the district's action - an arbitration hearing next month," Boreanaz said.
According to the district, the funds were used to buy African-American artifacts and memorabilia. As the district worked to "reconcile" the items it discovered they are not on "school grounds" and are in a "storage facility" that no one has access to.