Editor’s note: After this story was posted, Dr. Vincent Butera contacted the Manhasset Press to point out that, “I was never subject to any charges at any level or had any legal action commenced against me.” In the interests of fairness, we have removed the word “charges” from the title of this post.
Spokespersons for the New York State Education Department (NYSED) confirmed to the Manhasset Press that its Office of State Review had closed its investigation into former Manhasset Superintendent of Schools Dr. Vincent Butera with no action recommended.
According to a press release, “Given the confidential nature of our review processes, we cannot offer further comment or provide documents concerning any review. We take all allegations of misconduct against educators extremely seriously. Part 83 of the Commissioner’s Regulations authorizes the Education Department to investigate allegations of lack of good moral character lodged against certified educators.”
Further, the statement continued, “An educator facing charges in accordance with Part 83 is afforded the opportunity for a full due process hearing. At issue when the Department initiates a Part 83 proceeding is whether the certified educator has the ‘good moral character’ to retain the certificate they hold. Our Part 83 moral character reviews are confidential unless they result in adverse action affecting an application or certificate. The Department has no record of any adverse action being taken against Mr. Butera by the Department.”
In a statement released by his public relations firm, newsPRos, Butera said, “I am pleased to report to the Community that on July 8, 2022, I was informed that the investigation previously opened by the Office of State Review has been closed without incident. As a result of the closure, there will be no hearing required and I remain in good standing with no effect on my administrative certification.”
He added, “The fact that the [NYSED] has closed the matter with no further action is gratifying and expected. To be clear, there have never been charges filed against me and no disciplinary action was ever taken by the Manhasset Board of Education. This was the proper decision as this latest news affirms. I appreciate the public support of the many people in Manhasset who stood with me throughout this ordeal.”
The district’s lawyers, in filings with the state Supreme Court in May, revealed that Butera had been the subject of a law enforcement investigation since 2021, when the district complied to a subpoena from the Office of State Review for its investigative file on Butera. The filings were in response to a Newsday FOIA request for the investigative file.
According to Butera, the district’s response cited “the lack ‘of any disciplinary findings, charges, reprimands, determinations or employment actions against Dr. Butera.’ The district wrote that disclosure would thus constitute ‘an unwarranted invasion of Dr. Butera’s privacy.’”
He added, “For anyone in a position of authority, it is disconcerting to have unsubstantiated claims become a source of hurtful speculation and misinformation. While it is not known who did file the complaint here, it was not filed by either the district or superintendent. I am pleased to have been vindicated and am grateful for the outpouring of support throughout this ordeal. I am grateful to the trustees who wrote letters of support on my behalf.”
Butera’s term began on July 1, 2017, and he was paid his salary and benefits by the district through June 30 of this year. He will lose his benefits but continue to draw the $286,844 salary through June 30, 2023. If he gains employment between July 1, 2022 and the end of his contract, the district will deduct whatever salary/compensation he receives, including consulting work.
Butera went on leave on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The previous November, an independent counsel had released a report concluding that Butera had violated the district’s sexual harassment policy. The law firm of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert was retained after a Shelter Rock Elementary School teacher (who had left the district) accused Butera of unwanted attention, hugs and conversation she felt violated her personal space. The firm was hired on Sept. 23, 2020.
The Manhasset Press obtained the teacher’s letter to the board of education detailing the alleged harassment as well as independent counsel Elizabeth Ledkovsky’s letter to the teacher describing the investigation.
Soon after the Manhasset Press article on the allegations came out, the board met without taking any action. As a result, a number of students walked out of class in protest one day while teachers wore black.
The board of education did not release the findings of the investigation and if Butera had faced any discipline. It did not reveal how the district’s sexual harassment policy had been changed. Dr. Gaurav Passi served as acting superintendent until he was appointed as superintendent this past July 1.
Much of the public comment at board of education meetings last fall and summer revolved around Butera’s fate. Most were negative at the beginning before Butera’s supporters began to outnumber the critics.
Asked through his spokesperson, Jamie Moss, if he was actively looking for a new position, and if the accusations will impact his job search, Butera replied, “I look forward to sharing my leadership skills and experiences with a new school district, and I welcome the opportunities that await. Now that the matter has been fully resolved, I look forward to pursuing opportunities to continue to positively impact and improve the lives of students.
Per the separation agreement Butera signed with the district earlier this year, “Dr. Butera agrees to make good faith efforts to obtain full-time employment at a marketable rate of pay for all positions sought.”