Riverhead High School principal Charles Regan at commencement in June 2018. File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Central School District is formally bringing ”multiple” disciplinary charges against high school principal Charles Regan, who was reassigned to his home April 30 after a female student accused him of sending her sexually graphic text messages for at least a month and forcibly kissing her in his office on April 29.

“Be advised that in executive session, held just prior to this meeting, the board of education proffered disciplinary charges against Charles Regan pursuant to [section] 3028 of New York State Education Law,” school board president Susan Koukounas said in a prepared statement at last night’s meeting.

The substance of those charges will not be disclosed to the public, “due to confidentiality requirements,” Koukounas said.

She added “the district intends to vigorously and expeditiously pursue those charges, using the procedures outlined in the law.”

The evidentiary portion of the hearing procedure will occur within a three-month period as required by law, school district counsel Christopher Venator, who is handling the proceeding for the district, said last night. Then a decision has to be rendered. The whole process, he said, can take around four months, but he said they will try their best “to move as quickly” as they can.

Venator told RiverheadLOCAL that Regan is now suspended with pay.

“We do not have the authority to suspend him without pay,” Venator said in an interview.

Venator explained that, generally, if the charges brought against an individual involve sexual abuse, that person can be suspended without pay. But the accusations have to meet the legal definition of sexual abuse. In this particular case, the “difficulty is, that it does not fit within any parameters that would allow us to suspend without pay,” Venator said.

Specifically, Venator referred to the investigation being conducted by the Riverhead Police Department, saying that even though “everything has been reported, they have not saw fit to file any charges,” which he said, “tells you that there is no crime, in their minds, no crime is being committed,” and in turn, doesn’t let the school suspend Regan without pay.

The district is also hiring a separate law firm to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accusations, Koukounas told the audience last night.

The school board last night voted to retain the law firm of Sokoloff Stern LLP to conduct the investigation. The district issued a request for proposals last week for special legal counsel services and picked Sokoloff Stern from the firms that responded, according to a resolution adopted by the school board last night.

Sokoloff Stern will act independently and will not be connected to the disciplinary proceeding, which is being handled by Venator’s firm, Ingerman Smith, Venator said.

Sokoloff Stern will be paid at the rate of $225 per hour, he said. As of right now, Sokoloff Stern does not have a time limit restriction or more defined parameters for their investigation, he said.

Last week the superintendent announced in a statement posted on the district website that “an outside law firm” was representing the district in connection with Stapon’s notice of claim. The firm, which she did not identify, was appointed and paid for by the district’s insurance company, Henriquez wrote.

“The law firm is currently reviewing the circumstances that have transpired this year pertaining to Mr. Regan, as well as reviewing the hiring process that took place when Mr. Regan was first employed by the district in 2006,” the superintendent wrote in the June 4 message.” See prior story.

Officials last night stressed that the district was hiring Sokoloff Stern to conduct an independent investigation.

“We are going to keep monitoring the process as a board of education,” Koukounas said in an interview. “We will make sure that whatever decisions we have to make at the end will come to fruition.”

Members of the audience generally expressed satisfaction with the hiring of an independent investigator.

At least three people asked the board to also look into the notice of claim that was filed against Eastport-South Manor Central School District accusing Regan of raping and sexually assaulting a now 35-year-old woman from 1999 to 2002.

“Now that you have decided to hire an independent investigator, I would like you to ask them to expand their investigation into the charges that were made at Eastport-South Manor [school district,]” Calverton resident Sal Mastropaolo said.

“If the findings are positive, that there were incidents that occurred there, the board should consider suing them for failure to act on those charges back then, because had they acted then we would have never hired him and we wouldn’t be in the position we are now.”

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