MIDDLETOWN – Former Assistant Superintendent Enza Macri has filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education and former Superintendent Michael Conner alleging that the Board of Education and district administration failed to address repeated cases of sexual harassment and “direct sexual assault” by Conner during his tenure with the district.
The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut on June 8, alleges a pattern of gender discrimination against Macri and other Middletown public school employees, and that Macri was subjected to repeated “sexual harassment and direct sexual assault.” ” by Conner.
“Dr. Macri suffered from such severe mental and physical suffering that she had no choice but to leave her job and the community she loved to escape abuse,” according to the complaint.
This lawsuit follows several complaints of bullying, gross sexual harassment, nepotism and standards of unprofessional conduct dating back to 2018 that were brought to the City of Middletown and the Board of Education in October. The behavior alleged in the complaints would have motivated the departure of more than a dozen employees.
According to the complaint, Conner’s “disproportionately bad” treatment of administrators began a few weeks after he joined the district in November 2017. The complaint said Conner referred to administrators as “girls” and publicly yelled or scolded the administrators. “without justification”.
The complaint states that on January 8, 2018, Conner called Macri into his office and told her “that he thought he was in love with her.” According to the complaint, despite Macri’s continued refusals and attempts to change the subject to work-related issues, Conner “repeatedly confessed his sexual feelings for Dr. Macri and told her that he was in love with her.”
The complaint alleges that Conner’s behavior and comments continued through the end of the school year and into the following. In May 2018, Conner allegedly made explicitly sexual comments to Macri while they were alone in her office. In another case, in November of that year, Macri was in Conner’s office, and Conner tried to kiss her while blocking the door so she couldn’t leave.
The complaint also alleged that in the spring of 2019, Conner began working to “undermine” Macri and “isolate” her.
“Dr. Conner scheduled meetings with Dr. Macri, unbeknownst to her, would not invite her to meetings she normally attended and make decisions in which she would be involved without her participation,” the complaint reads. It also alleges that Conner made negative comments about Macri to administrators in Middletown and other districts, including referring to her as a “racist.”
Macri left the district in June 2019 to work as superintendent of schools in Cromwell. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment at the time this article was published.
The suit alleges Conner engaged in “infliction of emotional distress”, “aggression” and “drumming”.
Conner declined to comment, instead referring the CT Examiner for a statement published on the Middletown Eye following an investigation into complaints filed with the Board of Education in October by Thompson Hine. The investigation was commissioned by the Board of Education.
In his statement, Conner states that he is “unequivocally and completely innocent of the alleged charges.”
“Evidence has been shared with investigators and the BOE that these false allegations were intentionally fabricated as part of a plan to remove me from the Office of the Superintendent. That evidence was ignored,” Conner wrote.
He also notes that attorneys in charge of the investigation found that Conner was “more likely” to make unwanted “statements and romantic sexual advances” towards another administrator, which did not indicate that any conclusive evidence was found.
“This is not a definitive accusation, but another character-damaging insinuation based on a unilateral, anonymous, and, I repeat, false accusation,” Conner wrote.
The investigation rejected allegations that Conner was racially discriminatory in his hiring decisions or that he engaged in racial or gender harassment.
No investigation, no formal complaint
The complaint also alleges that Middletown School District Title IX Coordinator Marco Gaylord, Middletown Schools Human Resources Director, and the Board of Education failed to investigate Conner’s behavior despite knowledge of the allegations.
According to the complaint, Macri met with Gaylord in January 2018 and informed him of Conner’s conduct and his declarations of love for her. But Macri, according to the complaint, did not file a formal Title IX Complaint for fear of his professional career.
The complaint said that Gaylord did not pressure her to file a formal complaint, nor did he assure her that the district would support her. The complaint also alleges that he failed to investigate her concerns.
The complaint also alleges that Gaylord witnessed an outburst by Conner towards two administrators in November 2018, and that the Title IX Coordinator and COO “did nothing to stop him or approach him afterwards.” Also, when Macri told Gaylord about Conner’s attempt to kiss her, the complaint alleges that Gaylord took no action.
Gaylord is on administrative leave from the district as a result of the Board of Education’s investigation into the complaints filed in October. The investigation did not substantiate claims that Gaylord engaged in unprofessional behavior and made insensitive comments.
Gaylord did not respond to numerous attempts to contact him.
Macri also raised her concerns with the district director of human resources and described the details of Conner’s alleged sexual harassment, according to the complaint, but the director of human resources told Macri, after consulting with her attorney, that there was nothing she could do. could do if Macri was unwilling to file a formal Title IX complaint “in addition to implementing sexual harassment training.”
According to the complaint, Macri and the director of human resources also brought their concerns about Conner’s behavior to Macri and other administrators to then-chairman of the Board of Education, Christopher Drake. The complaint states that Drake told Macri that he could not take any action if she was not willing to make a written complaint. Macri declined for fear that “Dr. Conner would retaliate against her and she would lose her job.”
Drake told CT Examiner in an email that he thought the complaint was “missing some important context.”
“I believed in Enza then and now. But as chairman of the board, I needed something concrete to bring to the board’s lawyers so I could get the proper legal advice. After she brought it to my attention, I sought legal advice from the council’s attorney and they agreed that without a formal complaint I could not do anything about it,” Drake wrote.
The suit alleges that both the Board of Education and the City of Middletown created a “hostile work environment” and engaged in “retaliation” and “failure of supervision.”
“The Middletown Board of Education acted with deliberate indifference to the extent that one or more Middletown Board of Education officials with authority to address the sex discrimination against the complainant and institute corrective action had actual knowledge of the discrimination and did not respond and/or responded clearly irrationally in light of the known circumstances. Specifically, the employee or employees failed to take reasonably calculated steps to end discrimination,” the complaint reads.
Jessie Lavorgna, the district’s communications director, said the Board of Education “does not comment on pending litigation.”
The suit also alleged that the city of Middletown acted with similar “deliberate indifference”.
Mayor Benjamin Florsheim told the CT Examiner that Macri was not an employee of the City of Middletown.
“Dr. Macri did not work for the city and at no point before the allegations became public was the city aware of them,” Florsheim wrote in a text to the CT Examiner.
On June 10, a subpoena was filed requesting a response from Conner to Macri’s complaint within 21 days.