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February 14. 2013 11:27PM

Manchester principal probe tops $100k


Former Manchester West Principal Mary Ellen McGorry speaks during a special naturalization ceremony at the high school last May. (UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER - The tab for the investigation of former Manchester High School West Principal MaryEllen McGorry and her secretary has exceeded $100,000, and it will likely climb considerably higher.

The district had paid $47,955 through October to an employment investigative firm, and it spent an additional $52,975 for services rendered through Dec. 23, when it finalized its report on McGorry.

The investigation by the Massachusetts-based Employment Practices Group has continued since then, apparently focusing on the secretary, Denise Michael.

These figures do not include the money spent by the district on its outside attorneys, James O'Shaughnessy and Dean Eggert. Those figures were unavailable on Thursday.

McGorry, who had been a popular principal at West, and Michael were suspended a few weeks into the school year for reasons district officials have not disclosed.

McGorry had been on paid leave until late last month, when the board accepted her resignation while agreeing to pay her through April and cover health benefits through June.

Michael remains on paid leave.

McGorry's salary was $103,700 a year, and Michael is paid $27.80 an hour.

Citing employee privacy laws, district officials have refused to reveal the findings of the investigation or the nature of the allegations against McGorry or Michael.

Employment Practices Group compiled a report on McGorry that is 167 pages long, with exhibits totaling 368 pages, according to documents released by the legal counsel. District officials have not released the report to the school board or the media.

The firm has been billing the district $250 an hour for its services.

The legal expenses come as the district faces a budget crunch halfway through the fiscal year. The district's professional and technical services budget has been overspent due to "the legal projection for year end being higher than budgeted," according to the district's business administrator January financial report.

As of Thursday, the district had not provided more detailed information about its spending on legal services.

The school board has also voted to allow the superintendent to move forward with the hiring of John Rist, the former Central High principal, as the interim chief at West, at an estimated rate of $90 an hour, a move that has been harshly criticized by a couple members of the board.


tsiefer@unionleader.com


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