Charges were not brought against former Shelton High Principal Beth Smith or former Assistant Principal John Skerritt because one charge could not be proven and the other was never appropriate, according to the state’s attorney office.

In a letter dated May 8 to Shelton Police Lt. Michael McPadden, Detective John Hubyk and Officer Christopher Robak, State’s Attorney Margaret Kelley stated that she could not prove the interfering charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and the risk of injury charge was “never appropriate.”

Earlier this year, police conducted an investigation into whether school personnel adhered to requirements in state law in their handling of an alleged sexual assault involving two students. That six-week investigation was closed earlier in May, with no criminal charges filed.

The police report on the investigation stated that Shelton police had sought a warrant for the arrest of Smith and Skerritt for risk of injury to a minor and interfering with police, but Kelley declined to prosecute. The memo released Monday details her reasons for the decision.

"(Beth Smith) is extremely pleased to see that the state’s attorney came out so strongly against bringing any interference charge and also confirmed that the police effort to seek a risk of injury charge was totally inappropriate,” said Nicole M. Rothgeb, Smith’s attorney.

The letter was released Monday, Dec. 2, some seven months after it was sent to police. Rothgeb said Smith has received the memo.

“As the (district’s teachers) union knew and the state’s attorney memo recognizes, Dr. Smith’s actions in conducting a school investigation was always motivated by concern about the students and was in furtherance of what Dr. Smith believed were the school’s obligations,” said Rothgeb.

“The union, and most especially Dr. Smith, only wish that it had not taken nearly seven months for this report to be released and that the school district had been more supportive of Dr. Smith throughout this ordeal,” added Rothgeb.

In October, a subcommittee of the city’s school board had denied Smith’s claim that the superintendent’s decision to reassign her earlier this year from a job as principal at the high school to supervisor of special education was punitive.

Rothgeb said unless the parties are able to reach a mutually acceptable resolution, the grievance regarding Smith’s transfer will proceed to arbitration, and it will include seeking Smith’s reinstatement as Shelton High principal as well as any monetary losses in the months since her transfer.

In her October appearance before a subcommittee of the school board, Smith argued her new post as supervisor of special education carries less authority, less salary, a lower classification under the union’s bargaining agreement, and no supervisory or building responsibilities.

But the three-person panel, made up of Mark Holden and former board members Tom Minotti and Anne Gaydos, did not agree and denied Smith’s grievance.

The grievance was filed in July, months after Smith and former Assistant Principal Skerritt were placed on administrative leave in March. At the time, Shelton police were investigating whether school personnel adhered to requirements in state law in their handling of an alleged sexual assault involving two students.

That six-week investigation was closed earlier in May, with no criminal charges filed. The police report on the investigation stated that Shelton police had sought a warrant for the arrest of both administrators for risk of injury to a minor and interfering with police, but State’s Attorney Kelley declined to prosecute.

In her memo to police, Kelley states that Smith informed school Superintendent Chris Clouet of the incident, who responded with a text of “ok” and “never instructed Beth Smith to stop interviewing, even after speaking to my office.”

Kelley stated “neither Smith nor Skerritt precluded the police or DCF from continuing their investigation.”

Smith, who has argued other school officials as well as those in the state Department of Children & Families and Shelton police were “all aware of my actions,” said she became the “main scapegoat in this situation.

“This is not just a simple transfer as has been claimed in the denial of my grievance,” Smith said. “And when viewed in context of the surrounding events, it is most definitely punitive. Since I was not disciplined for my actions in connection with the student incident investigation, this punishment disguised as a reassignment should not be permitted to stand.”

Smith had sought to be returned to her post as high school principal. The union has 10 days from formal receipt of the panel’s decision to file a complaint, on behalf of Smith, to the American Dispute Resolution Center or a mutually agreed upon arbitrator. While the union has announced no decision, Smith’s attorney, Rothgeb, said “there is a strong likelihood this will be advanced to arbitration.”

Rothgeb said that the union contract prevents a demotion unless there is just cause.

“There was no just cause here,” said Rothgeb. “The demotion was punitive, and a violation of the contract.”

Holden stated that “the union contract states that the superintendent has the authority to reassign individuals for whatever reason if it is in the best interest of the district,” said Holden. “This clearly falls under this.”

Holden said Smith’s salary was not reduced in the move, instead, as per the union contract, it remained at $164,595. If Smith was still principal, though, she would be receiving $169,368.

Smith stated that, with the reassignment, she is not being paid in accordance with the union contract and was denied the raise she was due July 1.

Smith has a background in special education, having served in the past as the department chair for special education. Kathy Riddle was named the interim high school principal for the 2019-20 school year. Skerritt was named assistant principal at Shelton Intermediate School.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com