Superintendent Paul Kadri was investigated after his former executive assistant complained that he abused and threatened her, and made inappropriate comments about her to the point that she became ill and could no longer work, according to a 43-page investigative report released Monday night.
William Blake, of the firm Harlow, Adams & Friedman, P.C. conducted the investigation and hand-delivered the report to the lawyer for the school board on Aug. 15. Kadri was placed on paid administrative leave May 7, pending the outcome of the investigation.
The lawyer who represented Kadri, Brian Doyle of Rocky Hill, could not be reached Monday night when the report was released.
But Kadri was interviewed twice for four hours, and the report said he “denied that he had acted improperly in any respect in dealing with the employees of the district.”
Alisha Stripling, Kadri's former executive assistant, outlined several complaints in the report. She said she was 35 weeks pregnant when one of the incidents occurred. In her statement, she said Kadri began screaming at her when he arrived at an administrator’s retreat at the Yacht Club and discovered the contractor had not cleaned it, the report said.
Stripling said Kadri waved his fists at her as they stood on the club's front porch, called her repeatedly and then pulled up next to her in the central office parking lot and held onto her car later to confront her, the report said.
Her statement also said he asked her to run personal errands for him like walking his dog, questioned whether she was thinking clearly when she was pregnant, and made remarks about the skirts she wore, the report said.
Board Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt said the board would have no comment on the investigative report at this time. But the board is expected to discuss it during a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
14 Current Or Former Employees Interviewed
Blake interviewed ten current school employees, including Kadri, and four former employees, including former assistant superintendent Dorothy Hoyt. Hoyt filed a complaint of sexual and age discrimination with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities that was ultimately settled.
Blake said Hoyt's complaint was not part of the investigation but was included in the report because it was similar to complaints of other employees.
The report described a scene in the central office in which employees were found sobbing at their desks, while other administrators tried to console them, protect them and manage the situation.
In her statement, Stripling said Kadri’s anger was unpredictable, and accompanied by physcial gestures so she was afraid. She also said Kadri made inappropriate gestures toward her as a woman; that he would ask her to work at his house, and at one point asked whether she had friends to set him up with.
“On two occasions, when I wore a skirt because I was attending important events, he asked why I did not wear skirts like that for him,” she said in her statement included in the report.
Stripling said Kadri also told her about a female friend who had suffered a head injury while visiting him, and this story worried her, the report said.
She said she ultimately had panic attacks, couldn’t sleep and was crying at work, as well as consoling other employees, the report said.
“I felt fear and angst every single day that I was at work,” she said.
During his interview with investigators, Kadri said he was not yelling at Stripling the day of the retreat, but that they were both loud. He said he drove to the central office because he needed something, the report said. He said he was frantic, but denied putting his hand on her car or threatening her job, the report said.
In regard to the friend who was injured, the report said Kadri said that “during a visit, he and a female friend were ‘wrestling’ and ‘horsing around’. His friend tripped and fell over a shoe, landing on her rear end. She injured her head, developing a blood clot. He does not know how the woman developed a cerebral blood clot from landing on her rear end,” the report said.
Carolyn Dickey, the Groton school district’s business manager, said Kim Beam, the former director of human resources, confided that she had been physically abused; that Kadri had followed her home from a meeting and “pushed his way into her house,” the report said.
“Ms. Dickey reported that Ms. Beam filed a complaint with the board concerning Mr. Kadri’s behavior, but that her poor health, fear of Mr. Kadri, and repeated telephone calls from Mr. Kadri caused her to recant her complaint,” the report said.
Kadri told the investigator Beam had left his office crying at times, but she was sick, they were friends and he never mistreated her, the report said. Kadri said he did follow her to her house that day, and he did enter the house, the report said. He said he didn’t leave as she asked, saying “it was a ‘personal matter’ and he ‘wanted to make sure Ms. Beam was protected’,” the report said.
Two Other Assistants
The report said two others worked with Kadri as his executive assistants; Paula Haldeman, who started on July 23, 2010 and later refused to continue working for him, and Bonnie Drudi, who worked from Nov. 15, 2010 until May 27, 2011. Drudi said she was frightened and intimidated, lost 20 pounds and ended up taking anti-anxiety medication, the report said.
Wesley Greenleaf, the longtime facilities director for the public schools, reported that at least six times, he found Drudi in her office crying with her head in her hands, the report said.
Other administrators, including Laurie LePine, the district’s director of human resources; Amy Semerjian, the district’s researcher and Denise Doolittle, the director of pupil services and special education, reported that they felt either abused, fearful, or shaken by interactions with Kadri, the report said.
The report also said Dana Parfitt, the former grants facilitator for Groton, and Karin Green, the former director of human resources, said they watched Kadri treat their supervisor, Sally Keating, with contempt.
Kadri told the investigator he sees himself as a “change agent” in Groton, and he pointed to a 500 percent increase in giving to United Way under his leadership. He said he clashed with the culture of the public schools that resists change, the report said.
He said the Groton Board of Education wants to make everyone happy, and as an example, he cited that former Board Chairman Brian Shirvell was demonized after he presented a report showing that one of the district’s affluent schools was underperforming, the report said.
Kadri said he did not lose his temper, turn red and yell at employees, the report said. He told the investigator he is enthusiastic, has a loud voice and he waves his arms to make points, not to dominate or intimidate; “during his demonstration he made motions with his arms in a manner that appeared to resemble flailing his arms,” the report said.
The report added: “. . .Mr. Kadri did not demonstrate an understanding of how his words and actions were likely to be perceived by district employees.”
Phase II Pressure
Mary Ann Butler, who was initially named interim superintendent after Kadri was placed on leave, also wrote about what she viewed as an ethical issue during Kadri's tenure.
In a May 9, 2011 letter, Butler said she was called on the eve of the Phase II referendum and told to take vacation time and hold campaign signs with Kadri. The referendum was rejected by voters.
“My ethical concerns about this situation were disregarded and I felt at that time and still do there may be retaliation for my disagreement with you,” she wrote.
Kadri told the investigator this was a communication issue; that he had asked Butler, not ordered her to take the day off using personal time.
Butler was later hired as assistant superintendent in Windsor. The report said Superintendent Jeffrey Villar told the investigator Kadri contacted him the day after being placed on leave.
The report said Kadri denied trying to undermine Butler's job opportunity.
“He denied that he had told Dr. Villars that Mary Ann Butler was not a team player, would not take a bullet for him, and had Catholic school girl values. But Dr. Villars reported that Mr. Kadri had told him these things during his unsolicited telephone call on the day after he had been put on leave,” the report said.