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Groton board denies superintendent's request for neutral arbitrator

By Greg Smith

Publication: theday.com

Published October 17. 2012 7:00PM   Updated October 18. 2012 3:45PM

Groton — The school board has rejected Superintendent Paul Kadri's request for a neutral arbitrator to oversee his termination hearing, according to a letter from the board's attorney to Kadri's attorney.

Instead, according to the letter, an Oct. 30 hearing is scheduled before the school board, where Kadri is expected to contest accusations of abusive, unprofessional and unethical behavior that led the board to place him on paid leave in May.

Kadri, through his attorney, Gregg D. Adler, claimed he was being prejudged and would not receive fair treatment from the same board that had voted to consider his firing.

The board's attorney, Floyd Dugas, disagreed.

In the Wednesday letter to Adler, Dugas said Kadri agreed to the current process when he signed his contract with the school board.

"It seems opportunistic to be complaining about the very process he has contractually agreed to," Dugas writes.

Attempts to reach Board of Education Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt to comment on the decision were unsuccessful.

Adler said he is disappointed by the decision and expects the process, no matter the outcome, eventually will lead to litigation.

"I think it's a mistake because having the hearing in front of a true neutral party is the only real way for the board to ensure the hearing will result in a final conclusion," Adler said.

Dugas said in his letter that should Kadri have any specific concerns about board members being biased, he should outline those concerns.

Adler's response was immediate. In addition to expressing some perceived problems with the process, Adler sent a letter listing concerns about six of the board's nine members: Beverly Washington, Shelly Gardner, Chairwoman Hoyt, Rita Volkmann, Robert Peruzzotti and Beth Gianacoplos.

Adler said Kadri has no history to suggest the remaining three board members — Pat Doyle, Kim Watson and Chaz Zezulka — would not be objective, but he said "there is no way to ensure these board members have not been tainted to the point where they cannot be objective."

Kadri has been on leave since May when allegations of misconduct surfaced. The board later hired an investigator to speak with employees, some of whom alleged a pattern of bullying, belittling "and other behaviors and actions that caused employees to fear for their safety and caused them anxiety, as well as resulted in valued employees resigning and/or retiring earlier than planned," Hoyt wrote in a letter to Kadri.

Some employees accused Kadri of things such as asking school district personnel to perform personal tasks during work hours or attempting to misuse grant funds.

Hoyt said the allegations showed a lack of respect of female employees. She listed three behaviors that, by contract, would allow the board to fire Kadri: "insubordination against the rules or orders of the Board; moral misconduct; and other due and sufficient cause."

Adler said the letter is full of "definitive conclusions arrived at without my client being given any opportunity to present evidence in response to the allegations," and "hardly a notice of consideration but a public document that appeared to be designed to continue the smear campaign of my client's reputation."

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Town Hall annex.

g.smith@theday.com

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