Lyme-Old Lyme schools release some details on suspended athletic director, but questions remain

Old Lyme — The Lyme-Old Lyme school district, also known as Region 18, released several documents to The Day last week on the recent suspension of its athletic director.

The district placed Athletic Director Hildie Heck on an eight-day suspension without pay on Aug. 29 through Sept. 6, 2019, for her alleged failure "to be truthful regarding (her) hiring of coaches who lacked certification, (her) subsequent dishonest response, (her) attempts to cover up (her) actions through the use of (her) own funds, and (her) failure to follow proper purchasing protocols," Superintendent Ian Neviaser wrote in a Sept. 5 letter to Heck, obtained by The Day following a Freedom of Information Act request.

That followed a period in which she was on paid administrative leave, beginning on Aug. 28, while Neviaser said he investigated the situation regarding a check paid to a coach.

On Sept. 3, Neviaser wrote a letter to Heck stating that the "Lyme-Old Lyme Schools is considering disciplinary action" against her regarding her "failure to adhere to purchasing and employment protocols and (her) dishonesty regarding the same."

In that letter, Neviaser invited Heck to attend a predisciplinary meeting the next day at his office, where she would be provided the opportunity to give her side of the story, explain any extenuating circumstances relevant to the matter and "explain why (she) believed discipline should not be imposed." Both Lyme-Old Lyme High School and Middle School Principals James Wygonik and Mark Ambruso, respectively, were included on the email and had attended the meeting, according to a separate letter sent to Heck.

In the Sept. 3 letter, Neviaser said Heck "may be joined by a representative" that she would be responsible for coordinating.

In Neviaser's Sept. 5 letter to Heck, he wrote that she was being suspended.

"I am deeply concerned by your actions in this situation, specifically with your failure to be honest with me on multiple occasions," Neviaser wrote. "It is important that I am able to trust all of our employees and expect that you will be forthright in all future interactions with not just me, but with all individuals associated with the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools' athletic program. Your actions in this situation demonstrate poor decision making."

Wygonik, who also serves as the district's administrative union head, declined respond to questions from The Day asking whether Heck was represented at the meeting and whether the union had filed a grievance regarding the district's notification process and disciplinary decision.

When asked for comment about the matter Wednesday, Neviaser said he would not talk about a personnel matter. He declined to answer several questions, including regarding how long Heck has been employed with the school district and whether she was on any kind of probation.

State police said Wednesday that they have not launched an investigation involving Heck and said the district did not notify them about the situation. State police also had not made any arrests involving Heck.

Neviaser and the Region 18 school district had not yet fulfilled several FOIA requests filed last week by The Day, including whether there had been a complaint filed with the district against Heck, and other requested information detailing the investigation and its findings.

A message left with Heck on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

m.biekert@theday.com

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