The following is taken from the excellent front page expose article published by The Journal News on Saturday, December 21st, 2013.
“Brian Lavelle of Yonkers is a basketball coach who was fired three years ago by the Rye City School District. The district falsely accused him of stealing credit cards and cash from a student's knapsack. The district has apologized and agreed to pay him $125,000.
Timeline of events
Oct. 26, 2010: Brian Lavelle is hired as Rye’s
head varsity girls basketball coach.
Nov. 24, 2010: Student Ted Ice, who left his knapsack in the gymnasium the previous day, reports $30 and two credit cards were taken from it.
Dec. 2, 2010: Lavelle is suspended by acting Principal Dr. John Smith, who cites video evidence of him stealing from the bag.
Dec. 7, 2010: Lavelle is fired.
April 11, 2011: Under court order, the district produces the video. It shows four people going into the knapsack. It is too dark to see whether anyone took anything.
Nov. 7, 2013: With a jury chosen, the district settles a defamation suit filed by Lavelle, apologizing to him and agreeing to pay him $125,000.
The settlement of Lavelle’s defamation suit doesn’t permit him to discuss the district’s actions. But court papers raise multiple questions.
They reveal that the district reported to Rye police that surveillance video of the high school gymnasium showed only Lavelle going into the backpack on Nov. 23, 2010. In fact, the video, which the district refused to show Lavelle until under court order five months later, shows three people, including Lavelle, going into it that night. Lavelle said he went into it to determine its owner. Court records also reveal that the district erased additional gym video.
Lavelle was suspended on Dec. 2, 2010, and fired by the school board five days later. He was questioned by police but never charged.
In response to Lavelle’s defamation lawsuit, in January 2011, athletic director Robert Castagna said in an affidavit that he had reviewed surveillance tapes and they showed Lavelle removing something from the bag. According to court papers submitted by Lavelle’s attorney, Gerald DiEdwards, Castagna reviewed only about five minutes of video, although the knapsack was left unattended from the afternoon until the next morning.
Court records indicate the alleged theft was investigated by school security officer Ed DiNunzio, who told Rye police that surveillance video didn’t show anyone other than Lavelle handling the knapsack. DiNunzio, who no longer works for the district, could not be reached for comment.
Contacted this week, Rye City Assistant Superintendent Gabriella O’Connor maintained that the district’s insurance carrier handled and resolved the matter, and that the district had no copy of the settlement agreement, nor any other documentation relating to the case. But Robert Freeman, chairman of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said that even if those records are not being kept on school property, they are subject to FOIL if maintained for the district.
Among the materials not supplied to The Journal News is a “written document” cited in court documents from then-Superintendent of Schools Edward J. Shine to the Board of Education on Dec. 7, 2010. In it, Shine says that while video shows a coach besides Lavelle opening the knapsack in front of two people, “There is only one person who could have taken those items: varsity basketball coach Brian Lavelle.”
Shine, now superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, Conn., declined comment.”
Read the full excellent LoHud story and watch the video interview here –
It is now going on 3 weeks since this front page expose landed on the doorsteps of homes throughout the entire region. A check of the RCSD web site resulted in nothing about this that I could find. Perhaps they forgot about it. Here’s a question I think the residents who pay the bills here would like to know – I believe that video tape suppressed until forced out by court order is what is known as “exculpatory evidence.” WHO exactly – by name(s) – was responsible for this suppression and tampering - and if they work for a law firm retained by the RCSD or its insurance company - WHAT are the consequences to them for this shameful illegal behavior bringing much widely publicized unnecessary and hurtful discredit to the city and the district?