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Feud between East Aurora School Board members turns ugly

Annette JohnsEast AurorSchool District 131 Board Member

Annette Johnson, East Aurora School District 131 Board Member

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Updated: January 15, 2013 11:31AM

AURORA — Two East Aurora School Board members let an ongoing feud boil over, trading insults such as “slumlord” and “loser” at a board committee meeting last week.

East Aurora School Board President Annette Johnson, an Aurora business owner, and board member Ray Hull, head of the city of Aurora’s water and sewer department, engaged in a bitter war of words at the afternoon meeting on Dec. 6.

Although several heated exchanges took place in the two-hour public committee session, in the last few minutes of the meeting, the two took intensely personal jabs at each other.

War of words

Following a disagreement about janitorial bids, Johnson and Hull took a detour from the Buildings and Grounds Committee agenda:

“I guess you work for me at the city because I pay your wages through my taxes,” Johnson said. “While you were living in public housing, my mom was paying those taxes.”

Hull responded: “How do you like that big ol’ house by yourself over there? What do you hug at night, your pillow or your mannequin?”

Later, Johnson said: “This man... he wants to be me.”

Hull: “I love the projects. Me and (East Aurora spokesman) Clayton (Muhammad) was right next to each other in those same projects.”

Johnson: “Yup, while I was paying those taxes.”

Hull: “My mother was paying rent, too, and your mother might have been a slumlord, for all I know. Just like you.”

Johnson goes on to say that Hull lacks intelligence and is a loser, while Hull says that Johnson is mean, nasty, bipolar and “crazy as a roller.”

“Mr. Hull is just a loser, quite frankly,” Johnson said.

Hull fires back: “Your mama was a loser, and your daddy was, too. And you’re one, too.”

Attempt to intervene

East Superintendent Jerome Roberts and board member Anita Lewis attempted to curb the fighting at the meeting.

“Why don’t you guys go out to supper?” Lewis said. “What does this have to do with me sitting here for buildings and grounds?”

But the fighting continued.

Johnson: “Mr. Hull had his degree paid for by me, Mrs. Taxpayer. Listen to this man, attacking my dead mother.”

Hull: “And you talking about me being a loser. Go find someone to marry... You didn’t pay nothing for me, honey.”

During a discussion with staff earlier in the meeting, Hull called Johnson a bully.

“No one is having an antagonistic situation except you, you came into this room looking for a fight, and you’re going to get one from me,” Johnson said to Hull.

“You can bully everyone in this room. You can bully these boys but you won’t bully me,” Hull said. “You’re not going to tell me anything.”

At one point, a school district staff member came into the room, asking if she could close the door because of the loud quarrel.

“No. It’s a public meeting,” Hull replied.

Bigger problem

Hull said Thursday the fight that escalated out of control was a “symptom of a much bigger problem.”

“It’s a symptom of a dysfunctional board. This is certainly not the only incident that’s been ugly,” he said.

Johnson called the incident a “blow out” fight.

“It’s been one thing after another (with the board) and it just caught me on the wrong day,” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Hull said they regret parts of the argument.

“I rolled in the mud with (Johnson). I made a choice. I never would have said anything about her mother if she didn’t say mine was a freeloader,” Hull said. “I know I let God down with my behavior.”

Johnson said Hull’s words came on the anniversary of her mother’s death. Hull said his mother died when he was 19.

Apologies aside, both board members said they don’t agree with the other’s management style.

Johnson said Hull “gets more into defending individual (East staffers) than looking at the bigger picture.

“He’s hard to work with,” Johnson said.

Hull said he cannot “stand by and watch (Johnson) abuse staff.”

“The board — we don’t work as a team. It’s like Annette Johnson and the Pips. It’s her show,” he said.