Two men are being paid to serve as superintendent of the Manhasset school district, despite one being on leave since May as a result of a sexual harassment scandal, according to contracts.
Superintendent Vincent Butera, who district officials said violated its sexual harassment policy, is being paid $286,844 after a recent raise he received on July 1, according to the contract. Michael Ganci, of Syntax, acting as a spokesman for the district, confirmed to Newsday that Butera’s compensation arrangement was the same as it was before he went on leave in May.
Acting Superintendent Gaurav Passi, who was appointed to replace Butera on a temporary basis in August, is still being paid the salary he received as the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and personnel. According to the contract, Passi is receiving a $2,000 monthly stipend on top of the $214,135 annual salary he received from the role of assistant superintendent.
In September 2020, a Shelter Rock Elementary School teacher filed a complaint alleging that Butera made her feel uncomfortable after hugging her twice in school and frequently visiting her classroom to “just stand in the back and stare,” according to NBC News. Both incidents were described as “creepy.”
After that filing, the district hired the law office of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert to investigate the allegations, according to reports. Two months later, the firm found that since Butera’s actions were perceived as unwelcome by the teacher, they were against district policy.
Butera said at a Manhasset Board of Education meeting in May that he was “disheartened” that the complainant had construed his actions as troublesome.
Jamie Moss of the public relations company newsPRos, working on Butera’s behalf on the matter, told Newsday that the district’s Board of Education kept Butera as superintendent “with full knowledge of the facts, the context, and evidence and, in doing so, chose not to impose any disciplinary action.”
In an email to Newsday several weeks ago, Moss said, “In May, 2021 a mob mentality and a media frenzy broke out in the district. As a result, in May 2021, the Board of Education, in an effort to calm the frenzy, placed Dr. Butera on paid leave.”
Efforts to reach Moss or district representatives for further comment were unavailing.
Blank Slate Media tried to obtain a document outlining the law firm’s findings through a public-records request in May, but Rosemary Johnson, deputy superintendent for business and operations, declined to release it, citing the district’s attorney-client privilege and saying the record’s disclosure would “result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Before it was leaked to other media outlets that month, the independent counsel’s sexual harassment investigation was not public.
Johnson issued an impassioned defense of Butera at a school board meeting over the summer. She called Butera an educational visionary with an unblemished career. She then argued that a personnel change had led to Butera’s sexual harassment scandal.
Johnson did not provide specific evidence for her claim that personnel decisions sparked the scandal. Johnson argued that the school board’s previous decision to keep the findings private and not fire Butera was the right one.
“Therefore, I ask you to reinstate Dr. Butera as superintendent and work with him to restore and repair his reputation,” Johnson said. “Any other outcome would be an injustice unworthy of Manhasset. And to those bad actors, and you know who you are, may God help you.”
Butera said he did not coordinate with Johnson before she made remarks to the board.
“I am grateful and appreciative of her support as well as the support of others who spoke at the meeting,” Butera said in a statement to Blank Slate Media last month. “People who know me know that I always treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
Samuele Petruccelli contributed reporting.