SVSU CFO Pembroke investigation leaked to Facebook

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BENNINGTON >> Documents detailing the investigation into Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Rick Pembroke were leaked on Facebook on Friday, and outline allegations of harassment and bullying of another SU employee.

A copy of the report was posted on Facebook, to the page "Politics of Bennington," by a profile named Larry Smith, although the person appears to have intimate knowledge of events that occurred during an executive session of the SVSU board, suggesting that that may be a pseudonym.

"The investigators said he retaliated against a woman at the SVSU when she had enough of his bullying and harassment," the person wrote. "The retaliation got him four days suspension before Thanksgiving. But what got him in the end is that he lied at executive session which is funny because he's the one who negotiated his contract that let him get reviewed by the SVSU board not superintendent Jim Culkeen. A SVSU board member who was at the executive sessions said lawyers asked Rick if he talked to anyone about the investigation after Culkeen gave him orders not to. Rick said he talked to Ken Swierad and George Sleeman of the BSD. The lawyers asked Rick if he talked to anyone else. He said No. That's when a SVSU board member stood up and said it ain't true and Rick actually had talked to somebody else 'and I'm that somebody else.' Rick lied to his boss. Culkeen gave Rick the option to resign or be fired." This reporter could not immediately corroborate this information or determine the identity of the poster.

According to the report, which a source close to the situation confirmed was legitimate, SVSU finance and human resources employee Laurie Lingner filed a complaint on July 29 alleging that Pembroke had treated her in a "disrespectful and intimidating manner," and "intimated that she had misappropriated funds. Ms. Lingner also alleged that she has been subjected to intimidating and humiliating behavior on the part of Mr. Pembroke for many years." Pembroke was her direct supervisor from 2005 to 2014.

The investigation, performed by the law office of Stitzel, Page, and Fletcher, concludes, "Based on a review of all (word missing), and applying a preponderance of the evidence standard, this investigation proposes that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that Mr. Pembroke engaged in harassment or bullying as defined in the SVSU policies. The undersigned (Ellen M. Coogan) proposes that there is sufficient evidence to establish that it is more likely than not that Mr. Pembroke reported to James Culkeen on August 12, 2014 that Ms. Lingner had engaged in knowing misappropriation as a response to the complaint she had filed against him. The undersigned proposes that the evidence is sufficient to establish that the unfounded report of fraud was an adverse action taken in response to the pursuit of a complaint of employment discrimination and therefore amounted to retaliation."

Pembroke submitted his official letter of resignation on Wednesday, and was awarded a severance payment of $90,546.56, in addition to insurance and retirement contributions which will continue to be paid through September 30. The SVSU has continued to decline comment on the matter, in accordance with the severance agreement.

Pembroke could not be reached for comment.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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