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Beverly Hills District Pays $159,000 Settlement to Fired Superintendent

Schools: Board members alleged he was dismissed for misusing a credit card; his suit claims it was because he was gay.

April 13, 2001|TED SHAFFREY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A former Beverly Hills school superintendent who was fired after he allegedly abused a district credit card has collected a $159,000 settlement in a lawsuit against the district.

In his lawsuit, Robert Pellicone, 53, alleged that the district had breached its contract with him and discriminated against him because he is gay.

"I was offered a new job and I didn't want to drag my personal litigation into my new job," said Pellicone, who now is superintendent of the Shoreham-Wading River School District on New York's Long Island. "So I decided to settle with the school system."

Beverly Hills school board member Barry Brucker said Pellicone's sexual orientation had nothing to do with his dismissal.

But he said the board decided not to take the case to trial because all but $25,000 of the settlement was paid by the district's insurance company.

"We decided it was in the best interests of the school district to move on from this as quickly as possible," Brucker said.

As part of the settlement, the board gave Pellicone a letter that states in part: "Upon completion of an investigation . . . there was no official finding of fraudulent activity."

Pellicone was recruited to Beverly Hills in September 1998 from his position as superintendent of the Eastchester, N.Y., school district to a three-year, $143,000 per-year contract.

The board, for the first time ever, authorized a credit card for the superintendent in the district's name.

Eleven months later the board, by a vote of 3 to 2, fired Pellicone after accusing him of racking up more than $5,000 in unauthorized expenditures, including meals and drinks at hotels in Beverly Hills and San Francisco.

Pellicone maintains that all the charges were incurred in "the normal course of administrative duties," and that he was fired because school board members became uncomfortable with the fact that he is gay and was including his domestic partner in district-related social functions.

"The district is well-off. They have an insurance carrier," said Pellicone, who filed the breach of contract and discrimination suit in February 2000. "They wronged me in some respect and they had to pay for it. I was unable to find work for two years because of this."

Brucker said he does not regret firing Pellicone. "We had no choice but to look after the best interests of the school board," he said. "There isn't one person in this community that isn't thrilled with our new superintendent, Dr. Gwen Gross."

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