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Riverhead BOE to file disciplinary charges against reassigned principal

The Riverhead Board of Education has taken action to file multiple disciplinary charges against reassigned high school principal Charles Regan, district officials announced Tuesday.

In an executive session held before Tuesday evening’s meeting, board president Susan Koukounas said, board members made the decision to file charges against Mr. Regan in accordance with Section 3020a of the State Education Law.

Reading from a statement, Ms. Koukounas said that due to confidentiality requirements, the district is not authorized to share the substance of those charges.

“However, be rest assured, the district intends to vigorously and expeditiously pursue those charges, using the procedures outlined in the law,” she said.

Mr. Regan was reassigned to home April 30 following an accusation of alleged sexual misconduct leveled by 18-year-old Riverhead High School senior Anastasia Stapon. Ms. Stapon, who discussed the matter publicly last month, is suing Mr. Regan and the school district for at least $10 million.

Riverhead resident Loni Lewis, who has a son in the district, asked for a timeline regarding the new disciplinary charges.

“What do those charges consist of? What do those charges mean to us? What transpires, how long does it take?” she asked.

Christopher Venator, the school district’s attorney, replied that the district is required to follow a process outlined in Section 3020a, which he said sets parameters for how long a hearing should take. All testimony and evidence should be presented and received no later than 120 days from the date charges are filed, in this case June 11, he said. If procedures are completed, a resolution can be expected by the second week in October.

Following a comment from district parent Yolanda Thompson, Mr. Venator said that Mr. Regan will be notified that charges have been filed against him. Certain forms will be provided to Mr. Regan, including a form to request a hearing.

“That will happen, it just hasn’t happened yet,” Mr. Venator said.

Ms. Lewis later referenced other claims made by a woman who graduated from Eastport High School in 2002.

That alleged victim, 35, is also pursuing legal action against Mr. Regan, claiming he coerced her into having oral sex and intercourse with him after they attended a New York Knicks game in 2000. The victim will not speak publicly, but according to her attorney, John Ray, who also represents Ms. Stapon, she felt compelled to take action after learning of Ms. Stapon’s allegations.

Mr. Venator said that if the allegations against the Eastport-South Manor School District are proven true, it’s not in the Riverhead school district’s jurisdiction to determine charges.

“What role does Eastport-South Manor play in letting him go and then us hiring him, not knowing what happened back then?” Ms. Lewis asked. “Do they take any blame for … not placing disciplinary action against him so he could just go out and get hired by another school board?”

Mr. Venator said the district has no information about what Eastport-South Manor officials knew about Mr. Regan before he was hired by Riverhead.

The board unanimously approved a contract Tuesday night with the law firm Sokoloff Stern LLP of Carle Place to investigate the claim brought forth by Ms. Stapon. The firm will be paid at the rate of $225 per hour, Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez told an audience member.

Earlier this month, the district solicited proposals for special legal counsel services and chose Sokoloff Stern for the position, Ms. Koukounas said. The open-ended contract with the law firm took effect June 12.

Officials posted a statement on the district website last week indicating that an outside law firm which is not connected to Mr. Venator or Ingerman Smith LLP would conduct an investigation that would proceed separately from any future disciplinary action.

Sal Mastropaolo and Gregory Fischer, both of Calverton, suggested that outside investigator also consider the accusations against the Eastport South-Manor district. If other cases of assault are confirmed, Mr. Mastropaolo said, Riverhead should sue that district.

Ms. Thompson, who ran for Riverhead Board of Education in 2017, requested that the board modify its administrative contract, set to expire June 30, 2022, to include a clause stating that inappropriate behavior will be met with severe consequences, including suspension without pay.

“Can we make it crystal clear that this will not be tolerated again?” she asked.

Mr. Venator said it’s possible that the contract could be negotiated and due process regulations could be changed, adding that he will look into it in the future.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the disciplinary hearing process as a 3028. It is a 3020a hearing.

Photo caption: Riverhead Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez speaks at Tuesday’s school board meeting. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

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