No Deal with Khelfaoui; Next Up Public Hearing

November 7, 2018

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LOWELL -- The much rescheduled hearing for Lowell Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui has a new date and this time Mayor William Samaras says it’s final.

“Once set, there will be no further continuances of this matter,” he wrote in a statement.

The scheduling for the hearing at an, as-of-yet, undermined time on Wednesday, Nov. 14 comes after both sides say settlement negotiations failed. If the hearing does not conclude Wednesday, it will continue the following day.

Khelfaoui claims during negotiations the two parties were able to agree on payment, but disagreed on the inclusion of a non-disparagement clause, which would limit what the parties could say about each other. Khelfaoui said his attorney included this clause in a proposed agreement, but the other side did not support this request.

“If you can’t even agree you need to stop disparaging each other what is the agreement?” he said late Tuesday.

When asked for a copy of the settlement offer, Khelfaoui said he wants to confer with his attorney before deciding whether to provide the document.

Samaras declined to comment when asked about the non-disparagement clause.

According to Samaras, on Thursday, Oct. 25 the parties reached an “agreement in principle.”

“Prior to the committee’s executive session and in the days immediately following it, there was an expectation based on repeated assertions, the superintendent would execute final settlement documents,” he wrote in a statement. “Instead the superintendent made unilateral changes to the settlement documents.”

He declined to specify what these changes were, but said they did not have the support of the committee.

The most recent negotiation stand-still resulted in the scheduling of the hearing for Wednesday Nov. 7, which was canceled within hours. According to Samaras, Khelfaoui’s counsel Mike Long is out-of-state for a family funeral this Wednesday.

This is the latest in a long line of proposed dates and postponements of the hearing, following the delivery of an Aug. 24 letter describing the reasons for Khelfaoui’s termination. This letter was drafted by the School Committee during an executive session and has not been made public by either party.

The hearing is part of the termination process outlined in Khelfaoui’s contract. According to the contract, the superintendent can decide whether to call the hearing and if it will be public.

Khelfaoui has previously said he wants a public hearing.

On Oct. 24, he said he expects to be terminated following the hearing and will “most likely” sue. On Tuesday, he said he still expects this matter will go to court.

The dispute follows a 4-3 vote by the School Committee on July 18 to place Khelfaoui on administrative leave and begin the process of termination.

In the intervening months, an internal review of this year’s budget found a $2.48 million deficit even with $2.21 million of unbudgeted additional revenue. The School Committee is similarly split on this assessment, with the three members who supported Khelfaoui in July disputing the findings.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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