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.