Carter, former candidate for New London superintendent, sues school board and Curtin

In this July 24, 2014, Day file photo, Terrence Carter sits with his attorney Bill McCoy before the start of the New London Board of Education meeting.
In this July 24, 2014, Day file photo, Terrence Carter sits with his attorney Bill McCoy before the start of the New London Board of Education meeting.

New London — When Terrence P. Carter signed a contract to become the city’s next superintendent of schools, he was told the Board of Education’s approval of the contract was a formality and that the board president “had the votes” to confirm him as the leader of the city’s school system, Carter alleges in a lawsuit he filed this week against the board and its president, Margaret Mary Curtin.

Though Carter was unanimously appointed as superintendent in June, the board held off on ratifying his contract and ultimately rescinded its job offer to him after revelations of plagiarism and misrepresentation.

Carter’s lawsuit, filed on his behalf by Uncasville attorney WilliamMcCoy, alleges that Curtin and the board breached an agreement that attorneys for both sides had negotiated.

In the suit, filed Tuesday, Carter claims he suffered an “economic loss” of more than $15,000 when he resigned from his job in Chicago, put his home up for sale, relocated to New London, put his personal property in storage and purchased real estate in New London. The lawsuit lists a Preston address for Carter, but it was unclear Wednesday whether he owns that property.

In his suit, Carter argues that Curtin instructed him to sign the contract as a “pro forma matter” and told him that “she ‘had the votes’ to approve the agreement and that she would handle any issues with the approval of his compensation.”

The suit claims that Curtin “interfered with the agreement” between the board and Carter by telling him not to attend certain board meetings or talk to board members other than herself.

“While providing assurances to (Carter) that his appointment as superintendent was a formality, she lobbied for the recinding (sic) of his appointment,” the suit alleges.

Curtin declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, citing advice from the board’s attorney. The Shipman & Goodwin law firm of Hartford represents the board.

Just days before the board was to approve Carter’s contract, Curtin told him “there was a negative newspaper article being published, but that she would handle the issues with her fellow board members,” Carter claims.

He says Curtin told him “not to communicate his explanations of the facts concerning the negative newspaper articles to other board members because she would answer for him, and then did not,” and told board members Carter was unavailable to speak with them even though that was not the case.

Through the lawsuit, Carter is seeking monetary compensation and a declaratory ruling from the court that the board’s revocation of the job offer is void.

“An agreement was provided to (Carter),” McCoy said in July. “It was his understanding that all parties had agreed to those terms and conditions.”

The appointment followed a six-month, nationwide search.

Carter, who had been working at a Chicago nonprofit that operates as an arm of Chicago Public Schools to turn around low-performing schools, was the unanimous selection of the 12-person search committee, according to the board. The committee included all seven board members, community leaders and the heads of the teachers’ and administrators’ unions.

Carter also interviewed with state-appointed Special Master Steven J. Adamowski and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who offered his “enthusiastic concurrence” with the board’s selection, according to Adamowski.

Carter was feted by the community at a catered banquet at Ocean Beach Park in early July, moved to New London and was slated to take the helm of the district on Aug. 1.

But in July, just days before the board was to sign Carter’s contract, the media reports revealed that he had misrepresented himself — or allowed others to misrepresent him — as having a doctorate for more than five years before he completed his doctoral studies.

The Day reported that Carter has a history of defaulting on financial obligations and filed for personal bankruptcy in California in 1999 and again in Illinois in 2012, claiming more than $700,000 in liabilities.

Soon thereafter, as media reports continued to uncover more about Carter’s background, the state Department of Education asked Carter to withdraw from consideration for the New London job. He declined to do so and maintained that he was forthright in his résumé and interview with the board.

The state also froze Carter’s application to become a certified superintendent, pending the results of the board’s investigation.

Later, The Day reported that at least 10 paragraphs of Carter’s application for the superintendent job in New London, and large portions of his cover letter, contained material apparently copied from other sources without attribution.

In August, the Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind its offer to Carter and not to ratify his contract after an investigation by its attorneys that concluded that Carter misused the title of “Dr.” before he completed his doctoral studies, plagiarized sections of his job application and did not disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

Despite assurances in June from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., that Carter had completed the requirements for a doctoral degree in educational studies and successfully defended his dissertation, the university did not bestow a degree upon Carter in August as had been expected.

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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