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Feb 1, 2018 3:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Administrator Received Nearly $500,000 In Settlement With Southampton School District

Denise Merchant
Feb 6, 2018 3:09 PM

Southampton School District’s special education director, who resigned in January, received a payout of $380,000, plus another $108,000 for unused vacation and sick days, to settle claims she had filed against the district with the State Division of Human Rights.

Denise Merchant, whose title was director of pupil personnel services, submitted her letter of resignation, and it was accepted by the Southampton School Board on January 9. At the time, details of the settlement were not disclosed by the district or School Board.

In response to a Freedom of Information Law request submitted by The Press, the district provided a copy of the agreement on Thursday, February 1. It shows that, in exchange for agreeing to drop all claims of any kind against the district, and not to sue in the future, she would receive the payout of $380,000, meant to cover all attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as compensation for “pain and suffering.”

She also will receive benefits offered to members of the administrators’ union after 10 years. A total of $108,000 covering unused vacation days and sick days will be placed into a fund that will make payments to Ms. Merchant over a two-year period.

The agreement also grants Ms. Merchant free health insurance coverage for two years, beginning February 1, or until she obtains “substitute coverage.”

Ms. Merchant did not answer texts seeking comment, and her attorney, Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead, did not return a call.

Southampton Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Dyno noted that the settlement agreement includes a confidentiality clause that precludes him from commenting on the case.

In May 2016, Ms. Merchant was escorted out of the district administration building and stopped reporting to work for five months—though she continued to receive a six-figure salary, and even got a raise during that time, bumping her pay from $154,429 to $157,518 for the 2016-17 school year. She returned to her duties on October 17, 2016.

District officials never explained why Ms. Merchant was escorted out of the building, nor why she stopped reporting to work for a time, saying it was a “personnel” matter that required confidentiality.

The settlement references specific claims filed by Ms. Merchant against the school district with the State Division of Human Rights, but it does not specify the nature of the complaints. It also notes that the district maintains that it “acted lawfully and properly at all times and in all respects” and denies the allegations in the claims, choosing to settle the matter only “to avoid the legal fees and expenses that necessarily will result from further litigation.”

In the agreement, the district also said it would pay $835 for Ms. Merchant to attend the three-day Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators Winter Conference, held in January at Gurney’s in Montauk, covering registration, lodging, meals and mileage, though it noted that she “must not represent that she is [in] any way affiliated with the district.”

The district also agreed to provide her with a “neutral letter of recommendation” that specifies her dates of employment, positions held and resignation date.

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holy s**t
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 1, 18 3:51 PM
Could not have said it better!
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on Feb 6, 18 3:29 PM
+ 1
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Feb 1, 18 4:05 PM
Your pathetic
By bigblue84 (89), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 18 4:05 PM
WOW, thank you BOE... Money wasted again, not boe, but yours...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 1, 18 4:06 PM
Story is correcting--a typo put the number at $308,000 originally--it's actually $380,000. Apologies.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 18 4:23 PM
Criminals all of them
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Feb 1, 18 5:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
If your as pissed off as i am, call Fred Thiele's office and demand legislation be put forward making illegal to put a confidentiality clause in any settlement involving tax payer dollars, either directly or indirectly.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Feb 1, 18 5:59 PM
Whiskey tango foxtrot is wrong with this district??!!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 1, 18 6:14 PM
By carsrus (65), Hampton Bays on Feb 15, 18 8:38 AM
They treat it like monopoly money when it is not coming out of their pockets. Ridiculous. Heads need to roll.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 18 8:51 PM
And here I thought that school taxes went to educate our children...
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 1, 18 9:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is so sad to read these reports regarding good ole' SHS. I venture to say that students of said school system, prior to the 1960's, got an excellent education.
By summertimegal (97), southampton on Feb 1, 18 9:44 PM
She gets a good chunk of change from my fellow local taxpayers but deep down, in her heart, she knows the truth. The truth inside her will persist.
By Killerfrog (38), Southampton on Feb 1, 18 9:55 PM
Probably not...

I’m sure she feels entitled to this money.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 6:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
And why was she escorted out??? Too many admin people in the system. Need good teachers.
We spend so much money per student, why aren't we getting better ratings? Help our brilliant students achieve more, not less...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 9:38 AM
Wow, so sad. A recurring stream of funds (school taxes) and insufficient accountability and this is the result. Every district should have an independent auditor (reduce the superintendent salary to pay for it) with full accountability to the taxpayers. The taxpayers and the students are being cheated and nothing is being done. Enough! Take a look at the Catholic school model; they do so much more, with so much less.
By basic1 (12), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 9:57 AM
look at her pic. her smile says it all.
By thepresssucks (22), watermill on Feb 2, 18 10:21 AM
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 10:54 AM
CAUTION!!! They'll counterbalance with an increase in traffic stops...i.e. tickets
By userious (1), southampton on Feb 2, 18 11:46 AM
By NativeWoman (18), southampton on Feb 2, 18 4:47 PM
An absolute disgrace.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 7:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
By NativeWoman (14), southampton on Feb 2, 18 4:47 PM"

"nuff said.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Feb 2, 18 8:12 PM
That's cool district has so much money coming in from taxes. It is full of Administrators doing absolutely nothing. It's a who's who of people related or friends of another administrator. How can it cost $40,000 to educate one student? This is now $800,000 paid out to two administrators that were both Off Their Rockers. It's also time to get rid of their legal team.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 2, 18 8:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
An administration of businessmen and women with no connection to the education system paid per diem would fix a lot of the problem
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 3, 18 11:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe the press shouldn't publicize how fast our school district and their attorneys dole out taxpayer funds whenever an employee sues them.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Feb 3, 18 12:19 PM
Absolutely disgusting
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Feb 6, 18 3:52 PM
My taxpayer money...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 9, 18 6:46 PM
The Southampton School District is in total CHAOS! The Administration can not keep Superintents ' , the OUT OF CONTROL LEFT WING Board of Education removes traditional Holidays and replaces them with Politically Correct Indigenous BUNK,. I and many of us are AGHAST at it's DYSFUNCTION ! Replace these Board Members with a Board That WORKS WITH, NOT AGAIST THE WILL OF THE SOUTHAMPTON COMMUNITY ! SHAME ON YOU !
By carsrus (65), Hampton Bays on Feb 15, 18 8:37 AM
We understand that the attorneys' recommendation to settle this case would have been the same, regardless of the politics of the board, right?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 15, 18 8:40 AM