PLAISTOW — An independent investigation has found there is “no merit” to an allegation of a hostile work environment at School Administrative Unit 55, a school official said.

SAU Board Chairman Kimberly Farah announced the finding of the “extensive” investigation at a board meeting Wednesday night.

The law firm Drummond Woodsum was hired to conduct the investigation.

Farah described the firm as an “independent experienced employment attorney.”

“At the conclusion of that investigation, the independent investigator found that the allegation has no merit, so that investigation is nearly complete with the exception of the writing of the final report,” Farah said.

Farah did not offer more details about the allegation or the findings in the report.

The total cost of the investigation is expected to be nearly $20,000, according to SAU Board member Shawn O’Neil, who is also chairman of the Timberlane Regional School Board.

The SAU Board includes all school board members from the Timberlane Regional School District and the Hampstead School District, which are part of the SAU.

Superintendent Earl Metzler declined to comment on the investigation.

Meanwhile, the board will be facing more legal bills as it defends against a new lawsuit filed by Metzler, who alleges the SAU has failed to pay him enough for compensatory time.

Metzler earns $175,882 a year and is the highest paid public school superintendent in the state, according to a salary list compiled by the state Department of Education.

In the suit filed last month, Metzler claims the SAU violated policy by failing to pay him at a time and a half rate for working on non-scheduled work days.

His suit didn’t provide a dollar amount that he feels he’s owed, but school officials estimate it would be at least $50,000. That would be in addition to the more than $100,000 that he received in payouts for compensatory time since 2015.

Metzler said he was paid straight time, but is entitled to time and a half.

The lawsuit was filed several months after the SAU Board made a policy change that now prohibits salaried employees, including the superintendent and other administrators, from earning compensatory time for working on non-work days, like holidays and weekends.

Attorneys for the SAU Board are expected to file a response to the suit in Rockingham County Superior Court.

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Monday, January 13, 2020