By now it is no secret that Principal was placed on a forced administrative leave in December 2011 with pay by Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent Charles Sampson without knowledge of his wrongdoings.
Finally the secret is out, as Simon’s attorney, Stuart Moskovitz, has divulged information about the tenure charges brought against Simon in an exclusive interview with Patch.
Hundreds came out to the , and voted in closed session before hearing public comment on the issue. The public voiced agitation about the secrecy surrounding the charges and the disrespect of the Board by voting before hearing them speak.
There are three tenure charges that have been filed against Simon by the Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education through the law firm of Schwartz, Simon, Edelstein & Celso, LLC (SSE&C) on Feb. 6. Moskovitz said that he contacted SSE&C in the first week of February and advised them to either file charges against Simon or reinstate him within 48 hours or he would bring them to court. The law firm quickly went to Manalapan High School and over two days had people sign affidavits, according to Moskovitz.
SSE&C still serves as labor counsel for the district, despite the fact that another general counsel was chosen to serve the Board of Education recently, attorney Stephen Edelstein confirmed.
The first charge against Simon alleges his mishandling of student activity funds and accounts. The charge indicates that Simon violated policies regarding the handling of student activity funds in a dishonest manner. Five counts of incidents were listed beneath this charge.
The biggest count against Simon involves $2,000 missing from the money garnered from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Manalapan High School’s Fall Play of 2011, which his secretary, Louise Dellasala, alleges he stole.
Two years ago, Simon alerted Board Secretary and Business Administrator Sean Boyce about Dellasala, who had opened a checking account in both her name and “Manalapan High School” as well as gained a debit card from the account and established a credit card in her name and the high school’s name, according to both Moskovitz and Simon’s statement.
“There is no proper reason for such an account to be opened,” Simon’s statement reads. “It would only serve one purpose and that would be to take Manalapan High School funds and place them in an account to which only she had access.” Simon said he had asked Boyce and the Superintendent at the time James Wasser to transfer Dellasala from Manalapan High School because he could not trust her with money. Simon said that this should have resulted in Dellasala’s termination, but it did not.
Now, Dellasala is claiming that Simon stole $2,000. “She had access to all of the money, she handled all of the money, she’s got these bogus accounts and she’s the accuser saying he stole the money,” Moskovitz said.
Moskovitz explained that all play funds are collected after the play has completed its run. Dellasala approached the play director and asked for the money before the play completed its run; the play director did not comply and rather gave Simon the funds once the play run had ended. Simon later gave the funds to Dellasala when she requested it.
In Dellasala’s affidavit, she indicates that Simon provided her with money to deposit, but she later found envelopes in a plastic bin drawer beneath Simon’s desk that listed the amounts of the funds on them and she is alleging that Simon provided her with $2,000 less than the amount listed on the envelopes.
Moskovitz questions Dellasala’s claim that she went rifling through Simon’s room looking for evidence. If she was provided with cash, not in a marked envelope to deposit, why would she question the amount provided to her and if Simon stole the money why would he leave behind the envelopes, Moskovitz questions.
“As an attorney to base anything on that supposed evidence I would find personally mortifying,” Moskovitz said.
The other counts beneath the first charge relates to missing money from the Mr. Manalapan High School event, hiring someone to an extra-duty assignment that the district claims was unneeded, missing money from a football game two years ago involving a woman who said she confided in Simon about how to “cover up” the loss, and transferring funds from a yearbook account to the Building Account to pay for the Baseball team’s championship rings - which Simon said did occur but is not a violation of any law.
The second charge indicates that Simon endangered students and employees by breaking numerous regulations. Five counts of this charge are Simon permitting school fire drills in violation of policy, the sixth count said that Simon held a Pep Rally within the schools auditorium leading to overcrowding, and the seventh count indicated that Simon allowed the decoration of an electrical device in a girls’ restroom which violates several safety and fire codes.
Simon’s statement said that the fire drill charges against him are based on outdated policies which Koegler and the Board attorney have not updated, and thus violated State law.
The third charge against Simon simply states that Simon’s dismissal is warranted because of the previous allegations but does not offer any evidence or allegations against Simon.
Simon submitted a 38-page statement of position and evidence defending himself against the tenure charges and accompanied 13 affidavits. Simon said that “there is a concerted witch hunt by Dr. Koegler against me resulting from the fact that she believed that her being appointed superintendent was her inherent right and that somehow I was responsible for her not getting the appointment.”
Dr. Koegler, the Assistant Superintendent, Simon said is going after him because he reported her to the Board of Education in the past on two separate occasions for violating certain laws. When looking to hire a new assistant principal, Koegler told Simon he had to hire a woman, at which point Simon reported her to the Board for violating the district’s anti-discrimination law, according to Moskovitz and Simon. The second time Simon “blew the whistle” was about Koegler providing money to Phil Ricci for his education, in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement when he was not eligible for the funds, Moskovitz said.
The charges filed on Feb. 6 are related to, but different from the reasons Simon was placed on administrative leave in December. Moskovitz said he sat down with attorney Steven Edelstein on Jan. 6 and Edelstein told him that there was nothing in writing but the reasons for Simon’s removal were: improperly changing students grades, improper evaluation of staff members, management of money (different incidents than described in the charges filed on Feb. 6), and the missing money from the Fall 2011 Play.
“Everything about the way this is handled has an odor,” Moskovitz said. “There is no credibility for the way this was done.”
Moskovitz said that the very fact the administration insisted the Board vote in closed session prior to hearing from the public proves that they did not believe the charges were true.
“The charges are extremely well founded and supported by very solid evidence, and they will be resolved by the Commissioner of Education following a due process hearing at the Office of Administrative Law,” Edelstein said.
While the Board was not consulted about placing Simon on administrative leave, they were consulted about suspending Simon without pay - which occurred on Feb. 27, Edelstein said.
When asked who had initiated the investigation and call for charges against Simon, Edelstein could not violate attorney client privilege, but did indicate that all filed tenure charges have been signed by the superintendent.