Letter: Ex-Hamilton school superintendent accused of sexual harassment

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton's school superintendent who recently quit was accused of a myriad of allegations ranging from sexual harassing female employees to discriminating against special needs students and trying to influence the last school board election, according to records obtained by FOX19 NOW.

Tony Orr resigned earlier this month, but the district has never stated exactly what he was accused of, other than to say there were allegations he may have violated board policies. Veteran school attorney John Concannon outlined the accusations on behalf of his clients, at least two school employees, in a Jan. 19 letter to the school district's attorney, Bill Deters.

"These allegations," Concannon wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by FOX19 NOW, "deserve serious consideration as the consequences are potentially devastating to the Board, employees, students and school community. I also believe that, as is often true, there are incidents that are currently unknown to my clients and more that will emerge if properly investigated."

The specific allegations outlined in the letter are:

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment of female employees
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment of employees
  • Ethnically hostile and abusive behavior on at least one occasion witnessed by several employees
  • Ordering subordinates to delete district email records
  • Discriminating against special needs students
  • Attempting to unprofessionally and dishonestly influence the last board election
  • Ordering bad faith evaluations of employees for personal reasons

Concannon, who has served as legal counsel for both Cincinnati and Dayton school districts, requested an immediate outside, independent investigation. He also demanded the district put Orr on leave or he would go over the district's head to state and federal education officials.

Orr was put on leave in early February and quit April 12.

Concannon said he believes his clients did the right thing by bringing the issues to the board's attention so they could deal with it.

"They believed that they had a professional duty to make this known," he said. "They hired me to handle the process for them. It was very stressful on them to go through this. It was not fun, but it was something they believed they had to do, and they completed their piece in this, and they do not want to do any more on this."

He also said he gave the district credit for quickly taking action to look into the matter: "They immediately put him on paid administrative leave and started an independent investigation."

Orr, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, will remain on paid administrative leave with the district through July 31. He earns $156,818 annually and receives, within 30 days, $130,000 and the amount of his accrued and unused vacation balance through July 31, his separation agreement shows. The agreement releases Orr "from any and all liability, claims, demands or controversies of any kind which the Board may have or claim to have arising out of or relating to Orr's employment with the board."

It also "is understood that the execution of this Agreement does not constitute an admission of any kind whatsoever by any party," the document states.

Orr's April 12 resignation ended the investigation that began in early February.

Hamilton School Board President Steve Isgro declined comment Tuesday, referring us to the district's lawyer, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Isgro and other school district officials have now deflected several attempts to obtain details about and/or a copy of the independent investigation, one for which they paid $15,750, according to their treasurer.

He said the school district's attorney has it, and it is not a public record.

"It's his work product," Isgro told FOX19 NOW last week.

The allegations, Isgro has said, "did not involve students in any way" and was not criminal.

Authorities with law enforcement agencies such as the Hamilton Police Department and Butler County Sheriff's Office repeatedly have said they did not investigate.

"We understand that people may still have questions," Isgro said in the statement when the district announced Orr's resignation. "But, ultimately, this is a personnel matter, and we will honor the privacy of all involved."

District officials have maintained there also are apparently no related or supplementing documents to the investigation, such as emails, for the public to review.

"We have no records that would be responsive to this request," the district's treasurer, Robert Hancock, wrote us twice in emails April 13 and 14.

At a Hamilton school board meeting Tuesday night, Chris Mate spoke publicly and said that he was a victim of Orr's behavior. Mate was a candidate for the school board in 2017 and claimed that Orr deleted emails and demanded that other employees delete emails as well in an attempt to hurt Mate's reputation during the election.

"I don't think the election results would have changed had they not done that, so kind of struggling always to understand why I was singled out for them to go after," Mate said.

Concannon said Tuesday he hasn't seen the investigative report. He also was not informed of its findings and said his involvement in the situation "pretty much ended" after the district began their investigation.

"I understand the board has every right to accept a resignation. They chose to pay him a considerable severance, too. I don't know why they did that because I didn't see the report," he said.

"If it was consistent with what I heard, it would have been very serious. He resigned after the investigation was done. I understand that he is applying for school jobs in other districts so, you know, hopefully this has been handled appropriately. That's a concern. I think any potential employer needs to know the whole story, whatever that may be," Concannon said.

At the school board meeting Tuesday, Mate told the board members that he feels the investigation report should be released to the public. It's not clear if that will ever happen.

Isgro did tell the people in attendance that the board members do not currently have a copy of the report, reiterating that the district's attorney has it.

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