The Utica City School District has made it official. Superintendent of Schools Bruce Karam has now been fired.

A special meeting of the Utica School Board was held at 4pm on Monday afternoon. Following a nearly 35 minute Executive Session, the Board returned to public status and called for a vote on terminating Karam's employment with the district, following his arrest and indictment last Tuesday on five felony charges, including Grand Larceny.

Each member of the BOE was tasked with publicly casting their vote on-record regarding Karam's termination. Five of the seven board members present voted to terminate Karam, effective immediately. Don Dawes and Bob Cardillo voted against the firing. The measure passed 5-2.

Board member Dawes objected to the firing. He said while Karam has been charged with crimes, he deserves his day in court, and feels the action will place the district in legal jeopardy.

Karam has been on paid administrative leave, so essentially, the District has been paying for two Superintendents since last year.

The Board also voted to name Kathy Davis the interim Superintendent of Schools. Board member Don Dawes disagreed, and requested that Davis remain in her current role -Acting Superintendent. Davis was appointed by a 6-1 margin, with Dawes opposing.  Davis was sworn into office immediately afterwards. Hobika said the district will continue to search for a permanent replacement.

Karam's Tenure

Karam was named Superintendent of Utica Schools in September of 2011. He was placed on administrative leave on October18, 2022. Since the investigative report on Karam was released earlier this year, the district said it has been working on a legal means to terminate Karam's employment.

One of Karam's most memorable accomplishments as Superintendent was making trips to Albany to lobby for more funding for the district, considered one of the poorest in New York State. Ironically, his arrest last Tuesday included charges that he stole from the very district he was increase funding for.


Utica School District Live Stream
Utica School District Live Stream Nov. 27, 2023

The firing comes after the district won a Federal Court case in which Karam requested to have the case against him thrown out. Specific board members were named in that case. Another Federal Court case is currently pending, in which Karam has requested to be reinstated. A decision on that case is expected soon.

Karam was placed on leave in 2022 pending an investigation into a complaint filed by two administrators who alleged he created a hostile work environment for them. Additionally, audio tapes surfaced from district meetings in which Karam could be heard referring to employees in disparaging ways, that included racial, sexual and physical slurs. Two independent witnesses confirmed the tape's authenticity for WIBX.

On Tuesday, November 21, Comptroller DiNapoli, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, and the New York State Police announced the arrest of the long-time superintendent of the Utica City School District (UCSD) Bruce Karam, and the former Utica Mayor and UCSD School Board President Louis LaPolla for allegedly using taxpayer funds to pay for political campaigns and a non-school related fundraiser.

“The diversion of funds meant to support the education and well-being of students by high-ranking school officials is an appalling betrayal of the public trust,” DiNapoli said. “Instead of serving the students of the district who they were duty-bound to help, these two defendants allegedly chose to serve themselves," he added. "Thanks to my partnership with District Attorney McNamara and the State Police they will now be held accountable for their crimes.”

The allegations became morning radio fodder for weeks in the spring 2022 during the school board elections, when it was alleged that employees were forced to participate in campaigns, and a healthy supply of stamps, paid for by the district, were used to send out political mailers. The radio conversation quickly gained the title of "stamp-gate," especially during the time that Board President Lou LaPolla was planning his retirement party.

According to a release from the Comptroller's Office, investigators with the Oneida County District Attorney, the State Comptroller, and the State Police determined that Karam was using school money and resources including stamps, envelopes, and other supplies to send election mailers in support of school board candidates that he favored and who determined his contract, salary and authority.

Dinapoli also charged, he used school resources to send invitations for a non-school related fundraiser for a purported charity run by LaPolla. Fundraiser fliers for the charity were inserted by school district employees during school hours in envelopes the school district paid for, and were mailed using the district’s stamps. LaPolla was allegedly aware that school resources were being used on his behalf.

Dinapoli said, Karam also allegedly tried to cover up his actions by attempting to persuade school district employees to untruthfully say that these resources were being used for a valid purpose.

The value of the unlawful use of taxpayer funds totaled $14,649, including $9,775 in stamps, $1,015 in supplies, and $3,859 in compensation for hours of work.

Karam and LaPolla were both charged with Grand Larceny in the 4th degree and Public Corruption. Karam was also charged with additional counts of Grand Larceny in the 4th degree and Public Corruption, as well as Corruption of the Government in the 3rd degree.

They were arraigned in Oneida County Court by Judge Michael L. Dwyer. Their next court date is Dec. 1, 2023.

The BOE released a statement to the public during a special meeting last Tuesday following Mr. Karam's arrest, assuring people that since he had been placed on administrative leave, the district has "taken aggressive and proactive steps to overhaul (their) administrative operating structure, hire necessary staff, and overhaul and implement guardrails and protective measures to ensure the type of egregious and illegal misconduct outlined in the indictment, doesn’t happen in (the) district in the future."

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