By Jamie Wiggan
A lawyer representing Sto-Rox Superintendent Frank Dalmas says the district’s top administrator intends to fight attempts in motion to force his resignation.
Although the school board has not approved any official action to remove Dalmas, his attorney, Charles Lamberton, said he has been on a forced leave of absence since the week beginning Oct. 18 and is under pressure to accept a release agreement.
The resignation option was reportedly brought to Dalmas because he accepted an approximately $3,000 personal payment to compensate for time spent on a grant application in support of the school district community filed by a collective of non-profit organizations.
Lamberton said the payment in question was approved by the same board during a public meeting at least several months before the resignation moves surfaced. The payment is not listed as a separate line item on any of the official meeting minutes published this calendar year, but may have been included on the list of general bills given to all board members for review before approval.
Lamberton maintains his client is innocent and will fight to retain his position through the courts if necessary. “Dalmas has no intention of leaving, he doesn’t want to leave, he wants to work,” Lamberton said.
The board has not discussed the situation in public, and it is unclear whether an acting superintendent is currently filling in for Dalmas. None of the eight active board members responded to emails requesting comments.
Dalmas reportedly knew nothing about the situation until he was called to a recent meeting with Ira Weiss, whose law firm Weiss, Burkardt, Kramer, LLC represents the district.
According to Lamberton, Dalmas was told during the meeting he could accept the resignation offer, which included some severance money, or he would be forced to resign.
“This was all a total shock to Mr. Dalmas,” Lamberton said.
Public school administrators are barred from misusing their office for personal financial gain and are required to submit annual financial disclosures to the state ethics committee. Lamberton said he doesn’t think his client’s conduct violated state ethics law.
“The terms of the grant itself permitted those who worked under the grant to reimburse themselves for their time working on the grant,” he said.
Weiss declined to answer questions on any aspect of the situation, saying he had not yet been contacted by Lamberton and would not comment on personnel matters.
Lamberton said Board President Samantha Levitzki-Wright was also compensated for working on the grant and has not so far been removed from her position, suggesting Dalmas was being singled out.
Levitzki-Wright declined to speak on the record at this time.
Lamberton claims conversations he’s had with school officials – who he would not name – indicate not everyone on the board was fully apprised of the situation or in support of the move to oust Dalmas.
“There is something very, very nefarious going on here,” he said.
Dalmas’ clash with the board came during a turbulent time for the district. In September, Carrie Palermo, the teachers union president, gave a statement to the board declaring morale had reached an all-time low during the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
One month later, on Oct. 21, an auditor revealed to the board finances had been severely mismanaged during recent years, leaving the district with approximately $900,000 in unpaid fees and fines to state and federal taxing agencies.
Lamberton said none of these concerns were brought to Dalmas as reasons behind the attempts to remove him.
“I hope [school directors] don’t end up pulling the trigger it looks like they’re going to pull, but if they do, there are going to be consequences for that,” he said.