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AG Names Overseer at St. Paul’s

  • Jeffrey Maher

  • St. Paul's School in Concord, Monday, May 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Concord Monitor
Friday, December 21, 2018

Keene State College’s director of campus safety will take a new position overseeing St. Paul’s School for up to five years as part of a settlement agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office following a 14-month investigation into the Concord prep school’s handling of sexual assaults.

Jeffrey Maher, who worked for the Nashua Police Department for 20 years before retiring at the rank of captain in 2015, will begin his role as an independent compliance overseer role at the school on Feb. 4, according to the Attorney General’s Office. He spent the majority of his career investigating crimes of sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

Maher will be living on the grounds of St. Paul’s campus, and his salary and related expenses will be paid for by the school. But he will be employed by the Attorney General’s Office and report at least twice a year to the state’s justice department on whether the school is following the agreement.

The creation of the position was announced in September when Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said a multi-agency investigation supported charges of child endangerment against the school, a misdemeanor-level offense.

The settlement requires St. Paul’s to report any student claims of abuse to the overseer, who will be available as needed — 24 hours a day — to respond. The overseer is expected to ensure compliance with the agreement and issue a public report on a biannual basis.

The overseer must be notified of any reports of abuse before the school launches its own investigations and keep a written record of all incidents, as mandated by law.

Maher’s role is just one of the stipulations outlined in the unique agreement MacDonald signed with St. Paul’s board of trustees President Archibald Cox Jr. after the investigation.

The school also must conduct training for the school’s faculty, staff and students outlining the state’s Child Protection Act.

In addition, the school’s senior administrators also will be required to receive training conducted by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence on appropriate responses to allegations of physical or sexual abuse.

The investigation into St. Paul’s included the convening of a grand jury that heard from dozens of witnesses as far away as California. St. Paul’s has since waived confidentiality in the grand jury proceedings.

MacDonald has said his office will release its report, which includes grand jury materials, contingent upon approval from a Superior Court judge.

The agreement was seen by legal experts as the first of its kind for an educational institution in New Hampshire and as a possible model for other states responding to a history of sexual abuse and misconduct at prestigious prep schools.

“This settlement is truly groundbreaking,” Boston-based attorney Eric MacLeish said in September. MacLeish has represented hundreds of sexual assault victims, including several at St. Paul’s. “It represents one of the few times that a prep school has submitted to governmental oversight. Such settlements are usually reserved for civil right abuses occurring at state institutions.”

At Keene State, Maher also was the Title IX coordinator and was responsible for “coordinating the College’s response to incidents of sexual assault, gender-based harassment, and dating or domestic violence to ensure compliance with federal law and state statutes, while helping to ensure fair, equitable, and prompt grievance procedures,” according to his website bio.

Those responsibilities made him an ideal candidate for the role, officials said.

“The agreement with St. Paul’s School is founded on reform, oversight, accountability and transparency,” MacDonald said in a statement. “The Independent Compliance Overseer is essential to achieving all of these objectives. Mr. Maher’s recent experience in higher education, his training as a lawyer and his background in law enforcement, provides him with the necessary qualifications to take on this role to effect change at St. Paul’s School.”

In a statement, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault described Maher as an “innovative leader” in the field of combating campus-based violence.

“Jeff has a demonstrated history of partnering with students to make campuses safer and improve institutional responses to violence and harassment. His willingness to truly listen to the difficult reality of sexual assault is our best hope of making St. Paul’s a safer campus,” said Lyn Schollett, the coalition’s executive director.

Interim rector Amy Richards and Cox said in a statement to the St. Paul’s community that they are “confident that Mr. Maher will bring additional, useful perspective to our commitment to a safe, nurturing, and welcoming community for all who live here.”

The school’s new rector, Kathleen Carroll Giles, will take her position at the school on July 1.

Maher received his law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law, cum laude, in 2002; a master’s degree in criminal justice from Fitchburg State University in 1998; and his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University in criminal justice, with honors, in 1993.

The Concord Monitor’s Alyssa Dandrea contributed to this report.