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Bradford Educator Gives Up Licenses



Valley News Correspondent
Friday, June 29, 2018

Bradford, Vt. — A former Orange County educator has voluntarily surrendered his licenses to work as a school superintendent and principal in Vermont.

Keith A. Thompson is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with staff while employed as an assistant superintendent in the Orange East Supervisory Union in Bradford during the 2017-18 school year, according to the Vermont Agency of Education.

Both the Bradford Police Department and the Orange County Special Investigation Unit have been investigating Thompson following a co-worker’s complaint of misconduct, records show.

Thompson surrendered both his licenses last Thursday, according to Haley Jones, the spokeswoman for the Agency of Education. Repeated attempts to reach Thompson for comment have been unsuccessful in recent days.

Thompson, a former Thetford Elementary School principal, became assistant superintendent for OESU in July 2013. He was paid $104,000 a year for 2017-18.

The surrender of his two licenses comes as Thompson filed a civil lawsuit in Vermont Superior Court in Woodstock trying to block school district officials in Bradford from releasing public records to the Journal Opinion.

In his lawsuit, Thompson argued that OESU officials publicly had said “his employment was terminated for misconduct rather than having resigned” and that was affecting his efforts to find new work in the Upper Valley. Thompson has obtained a temporary restraining order blocking OESU and acting Superintendent Sandra Stanley from releasing public records about his employment, according to court documents.

His lawyer, Denise Marie Anderson, of White River Junction, said she would have no comment about the case and Thompson’s conduct.

Meanwhile Orange County State’s Attorney Will Porter said he hopes to make a decision by early July about whether to file criminal charges following a reported assault on Dec. 19 at the school district’s offices in Bradford. Thompson is listed as a person of interest by both the Bradford Police Department and the Orange County Special Investigation Unit for the case with the co-worker.

The complaint centers on Thompson reportedly showing pornographic images on an iPhone to another district employee and placing his hand on her back and later on her leg, Bradford Police said in a written report. “The victim told me these advances were not welcomed and she forcefully removed the listed (person of interest’s) hand from her leg,” Bradford Police Chief Jeff Stiegler wrote in the report.

The incident was reported to Thompson’s boss and he was placed on leave from OESU. The cellphone issued to Thompson was taken from him and placed in the custody of the school district, Stiegler wrote. The incident was reported to Bradford police on Jan. 3, but had happened about two weeks earlier.

Stiegler said he reached out to Stanley on Jan. 5, but didn’t get to talk to her until Jan. 9, when she confirmed Thompson no longer worked for the school district.

“Stanley advised me she was aware of a criminal complaint filed by the listed victim against the listed POI,” he wrote.

Stanley said because she considered it a personnel issue she thought she was not allowed to expand on the circumstances, according to the chief’s report. She did confirm the district had possession of Thompson’s assigned cellphone. The chief said he wanted to check the phone, but Stanley said she would need to ask the school district’s lawyer if she could turn it over.

The police chief said after taking the initial complaint, he spoke to the Orange County State’s Attorney’s Office and an agreement was reached that the Orange County Special Investigative Unit should pick up the case.

Lt. Scott Clouatre of the Sheriff’s Office said last week the report from the initial investigation has been delivered to Porter, the state’s attorney, for his consideration.

Porter said a few more steps are needed before he makes a decision.

Repeated attempts to reach the victim in the case were unsuccessful. Stanley said the woman, who also works for the school district, did not want to speak about the case.

The Lawsuit

Thompson filed for a temporary restraining order on May 11 against the school supervisory union, Stanley and Cohasa Publishing Inc., the publisher of the Journal Opinion.

Thompson said in his lawsuit that he resigned his position effective Jan. 30. It was unclear what his employment status was between the Dec. 19 incident; Jan. 9, when Stanley said he was no longer employed; and Jan. 30, when Thompson said his resignation was effective. His name does not show up in School Board meeting minutes in the district for meetings after Dec. 19.

The OESU School Board met on Feb. 6 and the minutes reflect that after a 22-minute executive session, Thompson’s resignation was accepted unanimously.

On March 6, the School Board met and the minutes for the earlier meeting were amended so that Thompson’s resignation was accepted “pending settlement documents.”

A written settlement had not been reached by Thompson and the district, he said in court papers when he filed his lawsuit in Vermont Superior Court in Woodstock on May 11.

Thompson said in the lawsuit that he also had filed a request with the district for access to his personnel file and other documents.

Thompson said Stanley, the interim superintendent, notified him in an email on May 4 that the Journal Opinion also had filed a public records request.

Stanley indicated she planned to release the documents by May 11 and that he “would need to seek a court order to prevent the production,” the lawsuit said. Stanley said she intended to provide the investigative reports too, the lawsuit said.

Stanley declined comment last week on several questions, including whether she informed Thompson about the newspaper’s public records request.

Vermont law and courts have maintained the identity of the person seeking records or the reason for seeking the documents have no relevance.

Thompson initially listed the Journal Opinion as a defendant in the lawsuit filed in Woodstock, but the newspaper was never served a copy at the time, according to its publisher, Connie Sanville.

The Bradford-based newspaper later learned about the lawsuit and eventually got some information about the lawsuit by going to the courthouse in Windsor County. Those court records appear to show Thompson’s lawyer, Anderson, tried to have the legal papers served on a Burlington law firm that represented the newspaper many years ago.

The law firm has no current relationship with the newspaper, Sanville said.

Thompson’s lawsuit maintained he thought he would suffer irreparable harm if the records were released, and in the lawsuit asked that OESU and its employees be enjoined from releasing documents.

Judge Robert Gerety Jr., after hearing from only one side, did grant the temporary restraining order against the school district and employees.

The ruling came without arguments from the Journal Opinion, but the judge found, “The court is not persuaded that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the Plaintiff’s claim against Cohasa Publishing Inc.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Journal Opinion. Mike Donoghue can be reached at vermontnewsfirst@gmail.com.