Cost of Hamilton superintendent’s exit: Almost quarter of a million dollars

The unexpected resignation of Hamilton City Schools superintendent Tony Orr has so far cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars, according to documents obtained by the Journal-News.

Orr’s resignation as part of a separation agreement on April 12 will cost at least $231,587 in paid and future payments to the former superintendent, billing invoices and the agreement show.

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But the school district’s attorney has questioned the total legal fees cited by school officials.

The Hamilton Board of Education ordered Orr on paid leave Feb. 5 and launched an independent investigation into allegations he had violated school board policies.

Orr never returned to his job and later resigned, citing “personal reasons.”

Hamilton Schools spent $29,713 on legal representation and services — most provided by district attorney William Deters II — in February and March, according to attorney invoices released by Hamilton Schools Treasurer Robert Hancock.

The law firm’s billings for April are not yet available, Hancock said.

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Orr has continued to be paid since Feb. 5 and will be paid — per his separation agreement with the board — until July 31 an amount of about $71,874 in salary.

His annual salary was $156,818.

Moreover, within 30 days of Aug. 1, Orr’s separation agreement stipulates he will receive a lump sum payment of $130,000 from Hamilton Schools.

Depending on the amount of the yet-to-be-known legal fees for April, Hamilton Schools will have paid at least $231,000 by the end of August as part of the Orr investigation and resignation.

The 10,000-student Hamilton Schools has an annual operating budget of $100 million.

Four of the five members of Hamilton’s school board did not respond to emailed requests seeking their comments regarding the financial costs of Orr’s departure.

Board Vice President Rob Weigel declined to comment on the costs associated with the investigation and resignation of Orr, but did write in an email that “everything the board has done up until this point has been in the interest of the district’s 10,000 students though it may not be popular.”

Weigel added: “There is no RUSE (sic) here.”

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School Board President Steve Isgro declined to comment and said questions should be directed to Deters.

When contacted by the Journal-News, Deters questioned the accuracy of the $29,713 total for his services as cited by Treasurer Hancock.

“There were many other employment matters and these matters are likely embedded,” Deters said. “I would need to look at the actual billing slips. That does not appear to be accurate. We billed all employment matters under the same category and therefore it likely includes other issues.”

The Journal-News was the first to obtain and report on a list of allegations against Orr in an attorney’s letter to the school board. In it, two female school employees made allegations against Orr that included sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work place.

Orr was also accused in the letter of “ordering subordinates to delete district email records” and attempting to influence last fall’s school board election.

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The board has appointed Larry Knapp to serve as interim superintendent for the remainder of this school year and through the 2018-2019 school year.

The board has also agreed to promote Associate Superintendent Michael Holbrook to superintendent for the 2019-2020.

By promoting current district officials, board members said they are saving the district costs incurred by some Ohio school districts, which on occasion spend thousands of dollars on hiring employment search firms to find a superintendent.

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