An investigation into years-old sexual harassment allegations against Manhasset’s now-former superintendent of schools, Vincent Butera, found no basis to discipline him, according to a spokesman for the state Education Department.
The allegations stem from claims in 2020 by a now-former teacher that Butera — who left the district last month — gave her unsolicited hugs, visited her classroom too frequently and paid her other unwanted attention. A district investigation done back then concluded that he had violated district policy, but the school board declined to discipline him.
Butera could have also lost his educator's license had there been an adverse finding during the state Education Department’s investigation, by the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability, formerly called the Teacher Moral Character and Teacher Tenure Hearing units.
In an email Thursday, department spokesman JP O’Hare wrote: “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.”
O’Hare was referring to Part 83 of the Education Commissioner’s Regulations that authorizes investigations into allegations of “lack of good moral character lodged against certified educators,” to determine “whether the certified educator has the ‘good moral character’ to retain the certificate they hold,” as O’Hare wrote to Newsday earlier this year.
In a text message Thursday afternoon, Butera said: "The fact that the NY State Education Department 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 news affirms. I appreciate the public support of the many people who stood with me throughout this ordeal."
He added: "I look forward to sharing my leadership skills and experiences with a new school district, and I welcome the opportunities that await."
A Manhasset district representative didn't return a message seeking comment.
The state investigation into Butera dates back to at least Nov. 30, 2021, when Samuel J. Finnessey Jr., director of the office, subpoenaed the district for files on its own investigation, commissioned in 2020, into the allegations.
That investigation, done by an outside law firm, concluded that Butera had violated the district’s sexual harassment policy and issued a report, which remains secret.
The board has declined to discipline him, with a deputy superintendent saying at a public meeting that the matter has been "twisted completely out of proportion and with malice, and I cannot discount the deliberate actions of several bad actors with thoughts of retribution for decisions made."
Still, Butera went on paid leave following public protests precipitated by a leak, in May 2021, about the allegations, to a community newspaper.
At a school board meeting in May 2021 following the leak, Butera said: “Despite my intent, the independent counsel did find that my attention was perceived by the complainant as unwelcomed, and therefore a violation of district policy.”
He remained on leave until his last day, which was last month. Under the terms of a separation agreement, announced in February by the board, Butera continues to receive his full annual pay — $286,844 — until his contract ends in June 2023. But the agreement calls for the district to stop paying for his benefits, and his salary is subject to mitigation if he accepts other employment.
The existence of the state investigation was disclosed May 13, in court filings by the district’s attorneys, who called it a “law enforcement investigation.” The filings were made as part of a pending lawsuit by Newsday, which is seeking to force the district to release a copy of the outside law firm’s report finding that Butera had violated district policy.