Groton school board panel urges policy to protect employees who report wrongdoing

Groton - A Board of Education committee on Monday recommended the school board implement a policy that would encourage employees to file complaints if they see wrongdoing by another employee, and prohibit retaliation against those who file such complaints.

The policy will go to the full board for a vote on April 28.

"In a nutshell it says that the board is committed to a lawful and ethical environment and if there are violations of that they will be reported," Superintendent Michael Graner said.

The draft comes a little more than one year after the school board fired Superintendent Paul Kadri for alleged mistreatment of employees.

The board fired Kadri on March 5, 2013, 10 months after placing him on leave and ordering an investigation into claims he was bullying, harassing and intimidating employees, mostly women. One of the issues that arose during the investigation was the reluctance of people to report problems or to follow up on complaints.

The proposed policy defines a complaint as "reporting what one reasonably and genuinely believes is wrongdoing by way of unethical or unlawful conduct by another employee, contractor, official or volunteer in the course of his or her employment or service for the board."

The draft policy stops short of requiring anyone with knowledge of wrongdoing to report it; rather it says people "should" report such matters.

If an employee does file a complaint, it must be done in writing with documentation, the draft policy says. It defines wrongdoing as behavior such as mismanagement, dishonesty, fraud, neglect and other misconduct.

The proposal says the board will keep identities of employees who file complaints confidential as much as possible, but they may have to be disclosed to investigate the matter or provide the accused person legal rights as part of a defense.

The proposed policy specifically forbids retaliation.

"Any individual who makes a report in good faith will not be discharged, disciplined, threatened, harassed, penalized or discriminated against for reporting what they perceive to be wrongdoing,'' the draft states.

It adds that if this occurs, the person retaliating "will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment."

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