September 23, 2014
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Horoschak agreement leaves questions unanswered

A cloak of secrecy continues to surround the reasons for placing former school superintendent Peter Horoschak on administrative leave last September and what constituted the lump sum payment he received.

After nearly four months on paid leave, Horoschak and the committee announced he was retiring. In a joint news release issued in December, the committee thanked Horoschak “for his leadership during trying financial times for the school district.” The release goes on to state that under Horoschak’s direction, schools experienced budget surpluses and that “academically, the district has continued to make overall progress.”

No mention was made of a financial settlement and, when asked about the details of the agreement, both parties said they were confidential. Nor was there any explanation for why he was placed on executive leave.

More than a month ago, citing the public records law, the Warwick Beacon filed a request for the financial details of the agreement.

Rosemary Healey, the school’s legal counsel and director of compliance and human resources, acknowledged the request and said she would respond within the 10 days set by the law.

At about the same time of the Beacon request, the Providence Journal also filed for information about the agreement.

On Feb. 17, the Journal published a story that Horoschak was paid $272,302, which the paper reported included his salary for 2012 plus the six-and-a-half months remaining in his contract. The contract would have expired this July 13.

The Beacon was provided a copy of the settlement; an 8-page document that states Horoschak is to receive the balance of his contractual salary in “one lump sum payment.” It goes on to say the department will maintain his health and dental benefits, less a 20 percent co-payment that was deducted from the final payment, through July 30. Other financial provisions are that the payment satisfies any obligation for unused accrued vacation time; that he will be permitted to keep the iPhone he was issued by the department; that he will not seek to collect unemployment benefits after July 13; and that the department will not deduct its pension contributions from the payment if the State Retirement Board rules no contributions are required for the post-retirement period.

Dollar amounts are not attributed to any of these agreements, nor does the final lump sum payment disclose an amount, despite the Beacon’s written request. That request was followed up by calls and e-mails to Healey. Healey disclosed that Horoschak’s salary in his last year of employment, including salary, mileage and doctoral stipend, was $165,225. Given the agreement, the assumption would be that, since Horoschak was being paid up until his December retirement, that that sum was deducted from the final payment.

That hasn’t been disclosed, although the department has so far not refuted the $272,302 payment reported by the Journal.

In an effort to get a breakdown of the amount, the Beacon contacted both Horoschak and his attorney, Jeffrey Sowa.

“Under the terms of the agreement, I can’t say anything further,” Sowa said in a phone interview.

In an e-mail, Horoschak said, “What can be misinterpreted is the amount I received in the settlement. That figure represents my pay for tax year 2012, i.e. Jan. thru Dec. 2012 plus the remainder of my school year 2013 salary from Jan. thru mid-July 2013 because I took that in one lump sum. I was guaranteed my salary under my contract, which expired July 14, 2013. Nothing more is coming to me. I did request to retain my cell phone because of all the data on it, but the school committee cut off the service in Sept 2012.”

The persistent question, which none of the parties will talk about, is why the School Committee, during an executive meeting, put Horoschak on administrative leave when they could have informed him they didn’t plan on renewing his contract? Wouldn’t that have prompted a search for his replacement to step in when his agreement expired this July?

At the time, Horoschak said he was caught by surprise. He did not disclose what was in the letter he received, but said he was not afforded a performance review as required by his contract and, further, ordered him not to go on school property. The department also issued an order to personnel not to talk to Horoschak or discuss the situation with the news media.

As background, the agreement reads, “Whereas, certain events have transpired which have caused the parties to conclude that it is their mutual best interest to end their employment relationship before the end of the employment contract term,” and says discussions were held and the settlement reached.

The agreement binds the department to saying no more than to confirm Horoschak’s duration of service, his job duties and the fact that he resigned for personal reasons. Further, it states that upon acceptance of the agreement, “no evidence of any termination or non-renewal will be placed in his [Horoschak’s] employment file.”

The agreement is to be placed in a sealed envelope in Healey’s files and not Horoschak’s personal file and to be kept confidential.

By signing the agreement, Horoschak waives any right to bring any action or appeal in connection “with any actual or perceived adverse employment action.”

He also agrees not to sue the School Committee, Warwick Schools or anyone employed or associated with the department of the committee.

Finally, the document states the agreement therein is the “entire agreement between the parties and is not subject to any terms, conditions, statements or representations not expressly set forth herein.”

That seemingly shuts the door on Horoschak’s relationship with Warwick Schools that started in July 2007. It leaves questions unanswered and gags either side from further discussing the matter.

Why?


Comments
9 comments on this item

This and the gag order around the resignation of Kieth Stokes after the 38 studio's debacle are why Rhode Island politics is so scummy. The taxpayers end up paying severance to guys that resign. We deserve to know why. If they did something wrong, fire them for cause.

This is the same question one could ask Mayor Avedisian, Chair of the RIPTA board of directors about the RIPTA former head Odimgbe. Will John Howell ask the question? No, he will not. Why?

"The RIPTA Board of Directors characterizes the employment separation as ‘mutual.’ Odimgbe had been on paid administrative leave for five months for reasons never disclosed. State police are investigating the covering of a video camera inside a room where cash was handled."

http://www.ripr.org/post/support-ousted-ripta-head

Sound familiar?

The reason the schools will not release information is because they will be sued for millions of dollars for doing so. I explained this to John Howell no less than a dozen times. The schools are closing and the children are having their programs cut, should the money go to lawyers and ex-employees or should it go towards education?

It must have been a slow news day John. I am looking forward to your in depth report on RIPTA.

I believe this matter was mishandled from the the beginning. I knew there wold be a large settlement. What a waste of taxpayers money.

This "large" settlement was the rest of his salary and a cell phone. We got out of this for the lowest amount contractually possible. Would you rather have gone to court and spent several hundred thousand defending why we didn't pay what was contractually obligated. We would have paid the same amount if he sat in his office the rest of the year and did absolutely nothing. I didn't vote to hire him, I didn't vote to extend his contract in 2010 or 2012. Paul Canistra also didn't vote for him. Three members of the committee voted to extend him in 2010 without a review or goals. I wanted a review and I wanted goals. What can or will anyone accomplish without a stated goal?

Mr. Maloney if the superintendant didn't do anything wrong then he should have finished out his contract. If he did something to be fired he should have been. The "we would have been sued" argument is a false argument. Thank you for posting your feelings. But the dismisal without cause was a mistake and a waste of taxpayer money.

The word on the street was that he was never at his post as he was running another business in connecticut.

Thank you Fenceman. Patientman, here is an appropriate hypothetical for you:

Any person can do the absolute least possible and not do anything "wrong". I expected more than doing the least possible for all our employees. Doing the least possible is not a cause for dismissal. If the leader does the least possible, what do you think the people under the leader will do? If you fire a person for doing the least possible within their contract but they are abiding by the contract would you lose in court for firing them, have to pay lawyers, and still have to pay the rest of the contractually obligated salary and benefits? I believe you would agree that this is in fact not a false argument but one that any lawyer would easily defend for their client.

In this hypothetical situation, I would rather pay the least and have someone take over who is going to give 100% rather than have a situation as proposed in my hypothetical situation. Do you know what would prevent any employee from doing the least possible? Exactly what I proposed prior to the extension, a review of the employee and a stated set of goals. If there was a review of an employee and an area was found to be lacking, they could be given instructions to improve that area. If an employee agrees to a specific set of goals and does not attain the goals they can be removed as an employee for cause. Patientman, this is a hypothetical situation and any resemblance to any situation in Warwick is purely coincidental.

Generally speaking, In my opinion, what would have been a waste of taxpayer money would be not having a person willing to put together a budget to present to the Mayor and city council and a person who is able to navigate the jr high school closure situation. I would always want someone proactive instead of reactive. I waited years for the short term and long term planning committees to meet and make a decision and that is the responsibility of the superintendent. I found out about the mentoring situation after it happened not before in the newspaper. I found communication to be lacking from administration and it is ultimately the responsibility of the person at the top to communicate with the school committee as the school committee is not allowed to be involved in the day to day activities of the schools. Of course, I am speaking generally and I would expect the new superintendent to take a strong leadership stance or be removed by the current school committee.

BTW, John knows exactly why the superintendent was let go. I know this for a fact. John also knew that a current school committee member was being investigated 10 days prior to the election for a misdemeanor and a felony. He did not report this at all. He did several stories on the superintendent rather than let Warwick residents know who it was they were voting for. Warwick elected the person to the school committee. The person was elected with STRONG union support. In fact, just 18 days after taking office, the person voted to give all the people who donated to her candidacy a raise to the tune of $500K annually. The vote was 3-2 to extend the WISE union contract and give 2 raises. Who would have like to know this person was involved in this situation prior to the election rather than a story that had been done 2-3 times before? As a Warwick resident, I know I would have wanted to know this. I found out about it several days after the election and it has STILL not been reported.

John Howell's reporting of the news is completely skewed. He reports to the mayor prior to reporting the news. It has been like this for years. He just wants to go with the flow and not rock the boat. If he had any balls he would hire a couple of investigative reporters, give them video camera and stake out certain facilities. But he wont as he has been ordered not to. And we all know where the order comes from.

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