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Story - Education

Jul 29, 2009 2:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Hampton Bays principal serves six claims, seeks reinstatement

Jul 29, 2009 2:45 PM

A former Hampton Bays High School principal who resigned in 2006 after he was arrested and accused of making harassing calls to several women is seeking reinstatement to his former position and reparations for years of lost wages.

Attorneys representing Frank Vetro last month filed six notices of claim, which could be the first step leading to multiple lawsuits, including one against the Hampton Bays School District. The list of respondents include Hampton Bays School Superintendent Joanne Loewenthal, former and current Hampton Bays School Board members, both the Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County district attorney’s office, the New York State Education Department’s Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability, and another former employer, the Middle Country School District.

Though each notice makes different allegations, the crux of Mr. Vetro’s complaint is that he believes he was discriminated against when Hampton Bays School District officials failed to reinstate him when the original criminal charges filed against him were reduced from misdemeanors to violations in March 2009.

In the claim filed against Hampton Bays, Mr. Vetro, who has been unable to land another job since he said he was forced to resign three years ago, states that school administrators refused to rehire him because his arrest generated too much bad press for the school. He also maintains that the charges filed against him, which included seven misdemeanor counts of second-degree aggravated harassment that were later reduced to two violations, never interfered with his work as high school principal.

“All I want to do is get back to work,” said Mr. Vetro who contends that he was misled by his former boss, Ms. Loewenthal, following his arrest in 2006 and was forced to step down from his $112,000-a-year position.

Mr. Vetro—who interviewed last week for an open assistant principal position at Hampton Bays Middle School—states in the claim filed in June that Ms. Loewenthal promised him that his old job would be waiting for him after he had cleared his name. Mr. Vetro said this week that he has not yet heard back about the new job opening in his former district.

“Although I have reasserted my interest, I have not been reinstated as promised and have exhausted all avenues to remedy the situation,” Mr. Vetro states in the claim.

The six-page notice filed with the Hampton Bays School District names Ms. Loewenthal, current School Board President Doug Oakland, Vice President George Leeman, and board members Marie Mulcahy, Warren Booth and Chris Garvey, as well as former board members Chris Catz, Lisa Fotopoulos, Jen Boyer and Craig Tufano, as respondents. A separate claim also lists Joe Kolarik, the district’s administrative association representative, as a respondent because he failed, according to the claim, to fight for Mr. Vetro’s reinstatement.

Ms. Loewenthal, Mr. Oakland and Mr. Leeman did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Michael Conte, a spokesman for the Hampton Bays School District, in a prepared statement released on Wednesday, said the district does not comment on pending legal matters. He also declined to comment on the status of Mr. Vetro’s employment application.

“The district does not provide public comment on applicants for any employment positions within the district,” he wrote in the statement. “We attempt to vigilantly maintain the privacy of all existing and prospective employees of the schools,” he said.

In the claim filed against Hampton Bays, Mr. Vetro said Ms. Loewenthal forced him to sign a letter of resignation for public relations reasons after he was arrested a second time in June 2006. Mr. Vetro was arrested a second time after Suffolk County Police said he violated an order of protection secured by an ex-girlfriend, who also happens to be one of the women who filed harassment charges against him that led to his original arrest. The ex-girlfriend, identified as Michelle Konik-Brosdal in one of the six claims, is a teacher with the Middle County School District, where Mr. Vetro worked before accepting a post in Hampton Bays.

Mr. Vetro is seeking the following reparations: reinstatement to his former position with tenure; repayment of all back pay, front pay and fringe benefits; repayment of all attorney’s fees; payment of damages for humiliation, pain and suffering; payment for lost time and benefits in the New York State Teacher’s Retirement System; a written public apology; and a full investigation into how his employment was handled. The claims do not include amounts for the possible monetary damage.

According to Mr. Vetro, a hearing has been scheduled with Hampton Bays School District officials for Friday, August 14, so he and his attorneys can discuss the claim with them. It is not clear where that meeting will be held.

Howard Gilbert, Mr. Vetro’s attorney, did not return repeated calls seeking comment this week.

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it doesn't look good
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on Jul 31, 09 11:07 AM
As an educator on Long Island it pains me to see how this administration has treated Mr. Vetro - all because of half-truths, lies and innuendoes! Thankfully, Mr. Vetro is a man of principle who has chosen to fight to decide his own destiny. The district has no excuse for their actions; arrogance and ego have no place in school administration. The only question now is - how many millions of dollars will the out-of-court settlement be?
By LongIslandTeacher39 (1), Westhampton on Jul 31, 09 4:53 PM