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Khelfaoui Paid Nearly $100G After Being Put on Leave

January 9, 2019
Former Lowell School Supt. Salah Khelfaoui Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- The district paid former Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui nearly $100,000 after he was removed from the school district’s day-to-day operations on July 18 of last year.

Following a public information request, documents provided by Lowell Public Schools show the bulk -- $63,598 -- is attributable to Khelfaoui’s nearly four-month stay on paid administrative leave, where he continued to receive pay checks for his $199,225 annual salary.

Following his final termination Nov. 14, he was paid $34,481 for unused vacation days as required by his contract. His contract does not require the district to reimburse him for unused sick days.

“The payment was part of his contract,” Mayor William Samaras said. “When he was waiting he had the right to receive the salary.”

Khelfaoui did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The payments come at a time of tough finances for the district, including a projected $2.48 million shortfall in this year’s budget even after receiving over $2 million in additional unbudgeted revenue, according to an internal review.

In July, then-Deputy Superintendent Jeannine Durkin was appointed to the role of acting superintendent with no raise to her $157,075 annual salary. This arrangement is still in place, though the School Committee is expected to begin discussing the process of appointing or hiring a new superintendent next week.

The 4-3 vote to start the process of terminating Khelfaoui in July split the committee. In the months that followed, supporters of the superintendent called the effort to remove him politically motivated, while those who wanted him out of the position described poor financial and personnel management.

A third-party audit requested by the School Committee was conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen and released in December. The document, which received some push-back at the most recent School Committee meeting, described a district in “financial crisis” with multiple instances of employee over payment and a $1.4 million deficit in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

The process of terminating Khelfaoui dragged on for months as a hearing the superintendent could request through his contract was scheduled and rescheduled due to a number of reasons, including a late request by Khelfaoui for a hearing in open session and back-and-forth settlement negotiations.

The on-again, off-again meeting was originally requested by the superintendent following the delivery of an Aug. 24 letter drafted by the School Committee. This unreleased letter composed during an executive session describes the reasons for Khelfaoui’s termination.

Ultimately, Khelfaoui called off his request for a hearing, describing the process as a “sham,” and had his legal representation deliver a 35-page response with hundreds of pages of exhibits to the Lowell Mayor’s Office.

The following week, on Nov. 14, a still-divided committee voted 4-3 to finalize the superintendent’s termination.

When Khelfaoui was first hired by the district in 2015, he entered into a memorandum of understanding with the district, but did not have a contract that would commit him to the position for a certain number of years. However, in May 2017, the School Committee approved a 4-year contract negotiated by Khelfaoui and then-Mayor Edward Kennedy.

Under the contract, he was eligible for scheduled pay raises and 25 vacation days per year, among other benefits.

Since his contract was approved on May 3, 2017, Khelfaoui used sixteen vacation days, according to information provided by the city.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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