Massena Central says business manager's claims in $3 million lawsuit are 'false and without merit'
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 5:17 pm

MASSENA – The claims made by the Massena Central School business manager in her $3 million lawsuit are “false and without merit,” according to the school Board of education.

In a statement today, the board said the allegations in a notice of claim from the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Business Cynthia Yager are “are the same or substantially similar to those allegations” she made at a closed session of the board last August, charging that Superintendent Roger Clough and the board are responsible for bullying, harassment and retaliation against Yager after she complained of improper procedure in accounting practices at the school.

Yager’s attorneys have sent a notice of claim, a precursor to filing a lawsuit, asking for a total of $3 million from the district for harassing her and exacting retaliation after she complained that Superintendent Clough violated board policy by appointing someone other than the business manager as the district’s records access officer without board approval.

The board statement says those allegations were investigated by “independent counsel” Michaela Perrotto, an attorney from Canandaigua, who the board said found the charges were “without substantial merit. Ms. Perrotto recommended dismissal of Ms. Yager’s complaint in its entirety.”

The board further states that a dispute of the kind she claims should be handled in arbitration.

The board said it believes their position will be vindicated.

The complete statement by the Massena Central School Board of Education follows:

For Immediate Release to Media – 3/21/12

Board of Education Massena Central School District 84 Nightengale Avenue Massena, NY 13662 Fax 315-705-2075 Phone 315-764-3700, ext. 3008

Press Release Massena Central School District, Board of Education – Response to Yager Notice of Claim For Immediate Release (Massena, New York): The Board of Education wishes to release a statement regarding the newspaper article and account which appeared in the Courier Observer on March 20, 2012.

That newspaper reported on page one, in a headline above the fold, about a Notice of Claim filed against the Massena Central School District Board of Education by an employee of the District. The Board of Education wishes for the public to know that the allegations contained in that Notice of Claim are in its opinion false and without merit. The allegations by Cynthia Yager were first brought forward to the Board of Education in Executive Session on August 17, 2011.

The Board of Education subsequently began an investigation pursuant to board policy, and immediately appointed an independent counsel to investigate those charges and allegations. Attorney, Michaela Perrotto, of Canandaigua, New York, a highly experienced and knowledgeable labor relations and school attorney was selected as independent counsel. Ms Perrotto is a full time attorney for the Cayuga/Onondaga BOCES located in Auburn, New York.

Ms. Perrotto was tasked with a responsibility of thoroughly investigating all the allegations made by Ms. Yager against our superintendent and others within the district. Ms. Perrotto conducted an exhaustive investigation.

The investigation took several months to complete and involved the interviews of more than thirty persons. Ms. Perrotto assembled hundreds of pages of documents and examined each and every allegation made by Ms. Yager, many of which are repeated in the Notice of Claim.

The allegations of the Notice of Claim are the same or substantially similar to those allegations investigated by Ms. Perrotto as part of her exhaustive review. It should be noted that Ms. Perrotto is entirely independent of the district.

Ms. Perrotto concluded her investigation by finding that the allegations made by Ms. Yager were without substantial merit. Ms. Perrotto recommended dismissal of Ms. Yager’s complaint in its entirety. In other words, no claim of Ms. Yager was upheld by the Independent Counsel. The same or substantially similar allegations are now repeated in the Notice of Claim filed against the district and which comprise the substance of the recent newspaper account.

The Board of Education wishes the public to know it takes allegations of harassment and retaliation very seriously and would never countenance such conduct from one of its employees regardless of their position. The Board of Education however, has full confidence that the investigation conducted by Ms. Perrotto was fair, thorough and complete.

Furthermore, the Board of Education wishes the public to know that upon the presentment of Ms. Yager’s complaints in August of 2011, the administrative staff of the district was instructed by the Board of Education that no person would be permitted to take retaliatory or other improper conduct against any person who filed a complaint or testified in the investigation to be conducted by Ms. Perrotto.

To the knowledge of the Board of Education no person was retaliated against or intimidated because they had given testimony in the investigation process. The Board of Education believes that the appropriate place for disputes such as those described in the Notice of Claim to be aired is not in the newspapers, but in the proper forum such as an arbitration hearing.

We believe however that the public record must be set straight. The Board of Education intends to aggressively defend any suit or claim brought by Ms. Yager. The Board of Education believes that it will ultimately be vindicated in this matter and that these baseless charges will be proven to be false.

The Board of Education also wishes the public to take note of the manner in which the article which appeared in the Courier Observer came about. It came about as a result of a press release issued by Ms. Yager and her attorneys.

The Press Release was not submitted to the school district for its comment. The Press Release referred, in part, to a Notice of Claim which recast and repackaged old allegations which have already been investigated and found to be meritless. Additionally, the Press Release referred to certain other claimed legal proceedings about which the district has still not been notified.

We submit that it is clear that this employee has an agenda and is using the news media to help promote her agenda. It should be noted that Ms. Yager has previously entered into a detailed employment contract with her employer. That contract requires Ms. Yager to submit any employment related dispute to an arbitration procedure described in the contract.

That contract is available to anyone for public inspection. That contract requires that Ms. Yager submit such disputes to the arbitration process. We encourage anyone who is so interested, to examine that contract and to ask the question why Ms. Yager has refused to follow the mandates of the contract.

Finally, Ms. Yager’s contract also addresses the issue of her entitlement to indemnification only under certain limited circumstances of a claim, demand suit or judgment, which provision does not apply in the case of a complaint by a co-worker.

Ms. Yager has not been retaliated against or discriminated against or treated differently and we believe that these claims are without merit and will ultimately be dismissed.

To quote Attorney Frank W. Miller in the Courier-Observer article referenced, “I can assure you that the district will vigorously, and I mean vigorously, defend these allegations. They have categorically and unequivocally denied these allegations. They are false. We will stand on that. We’ll be prepared to vigorously resist those charges once they materialize in the form of a lawsuit.”