Police report: Panic alarm pulled because of Claremont school superintendent

  • Interim SAU 6 Superintendent Keith Pfeifer at a board meeting in Claremont, N.H., on Dec. 19, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2019

CLAREMONT — Interim SAU 6 Superintendent Keith Pfeifer was told he had been placed on paid administrative leave and ordered to leave school headquarters earlier this month because of issues with other employees there, according to a Claremont Police Department incident report.

Police were called to the SAU building on Broad Street around 3:10 p.m. on Feb. 13 when a human resources official there pressed a panic button and told police Pfeifer “was being suspended and was asked to leave the property,” but had not been willing to do so, according to the report, which the Valley News obtained through a public records request.

The official, Assistant Director of Business and Finance Nathan Lavanway, told police that “the suspension was over issues that other employees in the building were having” with Pfeifer, and that he wanted the interim superintendent removed from the building.

The Valley News first reported on the dispute on Monday, but school officials, who had met privately, have refused to release any details, saying it was a personnel matter.

Lavanway told police that members of the school and SAU boards were aware of and supportive of the decision to suspend Pfeifer. SAU 6 represents Claremont and Unity.

The police report indicates Pfeifer ultimately spoke with an SAU attorney who told him he was being placed on paid administrative leave and must leave the building. The attorney also told Pfeifer he was not to attend a school meeting that was set to take place later that evening in Unity, according to the incident report.

At the end of the conversation with the attorney, Pfeifer, whose salary is $90,000, said he was going to leave the building, and did so after briefing Assistant Superintendent Cory LeClair about the Unity meeting, police said in the report.

Police said Pfeifer was “cooperative and professional” in their dealings with him.

Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase, who was one of the responding officers, initially provided little information about the incident, saying it was a personnel matter involving the SAU. Citing privacy concerns, he had declined to identify the parties involved and redacted their names in his initial release of the incident report.

After the Valley News said the details of the report were a matter of public record under the state’s Right-to-Know law, Chase consulted an attorney and released a largely unredacted report on Friday.

A message left for Pfeifer was not returned on Friday. Pfeifer’s attorney, Andru Volinsky, said via email that his client had “been orally advised that he is on administrative leave with pay. He has not received a written notice of any kind.”

“When and if we receive a written notice, we’ll consider responding,” Volinsky said.

Several messages left for SAU 6 Chairwoman Majorie Erickson have not been returned.

Before Pfeifer spoke with the SAU attorney while police were present on Feb. 13, he told an officer he had not been advised by “the proper people” that he was being relieved of his duties, and said he has a contract with the city that has not yet expired. He maintained he was still the superintendent, though he acknowledged that he was having issues with Lavanway and others, according to the report.

Chase reiterated on Friday that there was no criminal investigation into the incident, and that police involvement in the matter ended when officers left the building that day.

Pfeifer had said on Thursday that he wasn’t sure what his employment status was with the SAU. He said Volinsky had advised him not to report to work.

The SAU 6 School Board met for nearly two hours on Tuesday night, though Erickson at the time declined to say whether the meeting was related to the incident at the administrative office.

Asked afterward, Erickson told the Valley News that Pfeifer still was employed by the district and was expected to remain in his role until a new superintendent is hired. The SAU has been interviewing candidates for the permanent superintendent position, and finalists for the post are expected to be announced soon.

Pfeifer was hired on an interim basis by the SAU 6 board in July, following the ouster of Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin. He began work in August, and his contract was set to run through June 30. His public education career has spanned 45 years, and he has served as superintendent or interim superintendent in the Grantham, Mascoma and Littleton school districts.

Amanda E. Newman can be reached at anewman@vnews.com or 603-727-3215.

Click the image to read the full report with few redactions that was released on Friday.

Click the image to read the redacted version that was released on Wednesday.