Scranton School Board Refuses To Release Harassment Investigation Details

November 1, 2018

The Scranton School Board received the results of its investigation into harassment complaints made by the district superintendent.

However, citing threatened legal action, directors refused to provide any details about the report to the public Wednesday.

“We can’t divulge it due to further potential lawsuits,” board Vice President Robert Casey said. “I don’t want to put the district into any further liability.”

In a June letter to the board, Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., alleged that school directors sexually harass her, create a hostile work environment and discriminate based on her gender and ethnicity. The allegations, including that officials ignored her claims of sexual harassment, led the board to commission an internal investigation by Kingston attorney Jarrett Ferentino. In the letter, Kirijan threatens legal action if the behavior continues.

Directors met in executive session Tuesday night and received a verbal report from Ferentino.

“It’s a personnel matter,” board President Barbara Dixon said Wednesday. “I can’t comment on anything.”

Total costs of the taxpayer-funded investigation are still unknown.

The board decided to hire Ferentino during an executive session in June, and did not vote on the hire during a public meeting. The lack of a public vote is a violation of the state’s Sunshine Act, according to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. The Times-Tribune filed a Right to Know law request on Oct. 11 for any contract or letter of engagement with Ferentino, and the district filed for a 30-day extension to provide the newspaper with the public information. Solicitor John Minora said if the board violated the Sunshine Act, directors can vote on the hire at an upcoming meeting.

Kirijan’s complaints prompted state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to request copies of harassment policies for districts statewide, starting with Scranton, for a detailed review.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Kirijan, who has demanded to know who leaked a copy of her letter to The Times-Tribune last month, said she had not been briefed on the board investigation’s findings.

Directors Katie Gilmartin and Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said the board will seriously consider recommendations made in the report, including the need for continued training from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Minora said he and the board cannot comment on the report, citing personnel issues and possible litigation. Efforts to reach Ferentino and directors Paul Duffy, Bob Lesh, Mark McAndrew and Tom Schuster were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter