WATERVILLE — School officials and their attorney have interviewed about 20 people over 11 days as part of the internal investigation into allegations made against Don Reiter, the Waterville Senior High School principal.

Reiter was put on paid administrative leave Sept. 1.

High school teachers, secretaries and other support staff members are among those who have been interviewed, according to Eric Haley, superintendent of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which includes Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

Haley will not disclose the reason Reiter is on administrative leave and would not release the letter he sent Reiter that officially informed him of the leave, to the Morning Sentinel. The newspaper has requested a copy of it under the state Freedom of Access Law.

Haley said Thursday he can’t divulge the letter’s contents because it involves a personnel issue.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey, whose department is conducting a separate investigation, also will not say why Reiter is being investigated

Reiter’s attorney, Gregg Frame, has indicated the allegations against Reiter involve another person.

Frame also would not say what was in the letter or provide the Sentinel a copy, but said Thursday it had only one sentence that “produced very little context.”

“It was very vague,” he said.

Haley said Thursday he learned of the allegations against Reiter on Aug. 27, the day school started in Waterville for all students, although students in ninth grade and kindergarten through grade 6 started the day before.

He called Reiter on the night of Aug. 31, a Monday, to notify him he was being placed on administrative leave. He said he sent the letter to Reiter’s home in Mount Vernon on Friday by overnight mail via the U.S. Postal Service.

Haley and Assistant Superintendent Peter Thiboutot and in some cases the school district’s attorney, Melissa Hewey, have been interviewing people as part of the investigation since Aug. 31, Haley said.

Haley reported the case to police Sept. 2, which he said he is bound to do if there’s even a hint that something illegal has taken place.

“If, in the allegation, there’s a possibility of a criminal charge, I notify the police,” he said.

Teachers and other staff members were told in an emergency meeting Friday, Sept. 4, that Reiter was on leave.

THE INVESTIGATION

On Tuesday, Reiter and Frame, of Taylor, McCormack & Frame, of Portland, met with Haley and Thiboutot, as well as Hewey, the school district’s attorney, of Drummond Woodsum, in Hewey’s Portland office.

Frame said after the meeting Tuesday that he and Reiter learned of the allegations in the hourlong session and Reiter answered questions truthfully and clearly. Frame said he felt great leaving the meeting, and based on what he heard of the allegations and Reiter’s responses, he fully expects Reiter will be back on the job in a short time.

“If not, we’ll prepare ourselves for what would be a long battle, because there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in school,” Frame said.

Hewey’s comments after the meeting were more cautious.

“There’s certainly no timeline been established as to if or when he’ll be back in school,” she said. “We have additional work to do before we are able to decide where we go from here.”

At a Waterville Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, board members were told in executive session by Haley that Reiter was on paid administrative leave.

Haley said Thursday that some members asked what he was accused of, but he told them he couldn’t elaborate, because if he recommends dismissal, they would have to try the case and he did not want to prejudice them.

He also could find that the allegations are false, in which case that would be the end of it and Reiter would return to work, he said.

The process requires that if he recommends dismissal, the school board takes over.

“It’s just like a trial,” Haley said Thursday. “You have a defense attorney. You have a prosecutor. Each side presents its case. It is a courtroom.”

The hearing takes place in executive — private — session, but the decision the board makes becomes public afterward.

Haley said he has been involved in other investigations in which dismissal was recommended, but typically the person who is the subject of the investigation resigns before it gets to a hearing.

An internal school investigation takes time and must follow state law, he said.

By Thursday evening, Haley and Thiboutot had completed what Haley believed was the last interview, but he hesitated to say the investigation was near completion.

“It doesn’t change a lot from day to day,” he said. “It’s going to change a lot more when I come to a recommendation.”

The interviewing process is emotionally tiring, he said. Both he and Thiboutot take notes during the interviews and then discuss them afterward.

“That’s what we were doing most of the day,” Haley said after 5 p.m. Thursday. He said they’d decided Thursday to go home and ponder the day’s imformation.

“I think what we want to do now is go over our notes — go through one by one by one.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Haley said he must review all his information and make a decision in the case — whether to return Reiter to work or recommend dismissal.

He was not ready to say when he thinks that decision will come.

“I don’t want to put a timeline, because something might come up as we review things tomorrow,” he said.

While Reiter is on leave, Brian Laramee, the assistant principal, is acting principal.

Haley said Laramee has been figuring out what needs to be done and getting help from administrators, who are stepping up and pitching in.

“It’s nice to see that kind of collegiality,” he said.

Haley said the situation has been difficult for the school community, and he and others are trying to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible.

“We understand it’s hard on employees, staff at the high school,” he said. “It’s hard on everybody. The things that people want to know are things I can’t talk about, and I understand that. I would, too. If I were on the outside, I’d want to know, too.”

Massey was not available immediately for comment late Thursday afternoon on the police investigation, but he said Tuesday that it is separate from the school department’s. He also would not predict when the investigation will be completed.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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