The lawyer representing Superintendent Paul Kadri wrote a letter Wednesday citing specific reasons why he believes Groton School Board members could not be objective in presiding over a termination hearing of the superintendent.
Gregg Adler, Kadri’s lawyer, said the entire board should be disqualified from hearing Kadri’s case because critical comments were leaked to the press and the board member who leaked the information has not been identified. Adler also said the investigative report of Kadri assumed guilt, including the sentence, “. . .you have mistreated current and former employees…”
Kadri may sue
Adler said Wednesday that if the board does not agree to an independent arbitrator, Kadri will go through the hearing process, but he then believes Kadri will sue for violation of due process.
Kadri has been on paid administrative leave since May, pending the outcome of an investigation of his conduct with employees. The investigation was released in August and in it, multiple employees accused him of abusive and threatening behavior. Kadri later issued a response, and has said the allegations are untrue.
The board notified Kadri in a Sept. 10 letter that it is considering terminating his contract for three reasons, including “insubordination against the rules or order of the board” and “moral misconduct.”
Adler wrote Wednesday that the letter drew conclusions without giving Kadri the chance to defend himself and “appeared to be designed to continue the board’s smear campaign of my client’s reputation.”
Kadri asked for an independent aribitrator to preside over the termination hearing.
Abitrator request denied
The lawyer for the school board, Floyd Dugas, denied that request Tuesday.
He wrote on Oct. 16 that Kadri agreed in his contract that any hearing would be held before the school board.
“It seems opportunistic to be complaining about the very process he has contractually agreed to,” Dugas wrote. He added that if Kadri believes the board would be prejudiced, he should submit factual reasons as to why. Then Dugas said he would reevaluate the request.
Kadri’s hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 30 in the Town Hall Annex. Adler said he believes Kadri will allow it to be public.
“He is entitled to an opportunity to defend himself before unbiased decision-makers," Adler wrote. "By refusing to afford Mr. Kadri that opportunity, the board runs afoul of the Constitution and assures that he hearing will not constitute a final resolution of this matter.”
Complaints against board members
Adler’s letter names Board Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt and board members Beverly Washington, Shelley Gardner, Rita Volkmann, Robert Peruzzotti and Beth Gianacoplos as having made specific statements that indicate they would be biased.
Hoyt said Wednesday had not seen the letter and could not comment on it. Volkmann also said she had not seen it and declined comment. Washington, Gardner, Peruzzotti and Gianacoplos could not be reached for comment.
Adler’s letter listed several complaints. It said Hoyt threw Kadri out of a public meeting without justification, encouraged former assistant superintendent Butler to file a complaint against him, and failed to protect Kadri from derogatory comments made by other board members.
Members 'Want him fired'
The letter said Washington missed three of four meetings where Kadri’s performance was discussed, but still voted against renewing his contract.
The letter also said she told Kadri directly he needs to go, and that on Aug. 30 when Kadri asked to read a statement, she commented, “We don’t want to hear from that guy.”
The letter said Volkmann has made clear to Kadri and other board members that she wants him out of Groton, that she walked out of a meeting where Kadri was being reviewed, and that she used school visits to try to get complaints from principals about the superintendent’s performance.
The letter said Gardner scolded Kadri during a visit to his office, saying she would “not be intimidated by him” and she “would have no problem bringing charges against him. Adler’s letter also said that before a meeting in the Town Hall Annex, Gardner told Kadri she wanted him fired.
Adler’s letter said Peruzzotti told Kadri the superintendent has trouble dealing with women, that he told Kadri there was enough funding for a baseball field at Fitch High School, then let Kadri take the fall when the money was not enough to cover the project.
The letter said Gianacoplos and other board members allowed the president of a Parent Teacher Organization to make disparaging remarks about Kadri in public after a dispute occurred at a PTO meeting.
Three interim superintendents
The board has had three interim superintendents since Kadri was placed on leave: Mary Ann Butler, the former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; Randall Collins, the former superintendent in Waterford; and current Interim Superintendent John Ramos, the former superintendent in Bridgeport.
Adler said he understands Ramos’ contract extends through June 2013.
“If true, that would be an act by the board that assumes Mr. Kadri’s guilt,” Adler wrote.
Adler said Kadri requested information through the Freedom of Information Act, but was denied access to his calendar, e-mail or notes, which could be used in his defense.
Adler also said the investigation by William Blake, of the firm Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P.C., excluded key information.
For example, Adler said the board gave Blake a copy of a sexual and age discrimination complaint filed by former assistant superintendent Dorothy Hoyt with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. But Adler said the board did not give Blake a copy of the district’s response, which refuted some of the statements.
The letter from Floyd Dugas rejecting the request for an arbitrator and Adler's response can be viewed as PDFs attached to this article.