CHESHIRE, Mass. — School officials say they will continue to investigate 40-year-old sexual accusations against a former employee at what was then Adams Memorial Middle School.
After a lengthy executive session with Adams Cheshire Regional School District's legal counsel Monday, the School Committee read a prepared statement regarding the former custodian who allegedly molested students in the 1970s.
"Other individuals have recently contacted the district with similar allegations of sexual assault and abuse by the former employee," Chairman Paul Butler said. "The district is now investigating the additional claims and will treat every person who has and will come forward with dignity and confidentiality."
According to a recently published Berkshire Eagle article, two men, former Adams Memorial students, claimed custodian Clement St. Hilaire, now 94 years old, sexually abused them in the mid-1970s. The reports said St. Hilaire admitted to the molestations during an interview with the newspaper.
The two men also reportedly contacted police in 2008, long after the statute of limitations for such crimes had passed.
Butler said the district was contacted in 2016 by an attorney representing the two men and that it had hired an attorney who specialized in sexual abuse cases to investigate the claims.
"That letter also threatened that a suit would be filed unless certain demands were met and in response, the district hired an attorney experienced in handling claims of sexual abuse," Butler said. "The demands were not met and no suit had been filed."
The School Committee released a statement in January stating that it takes sexual abuse seriously but had decided not to take any action based on absence of proof and denials from St. Hilaire.
"Because of the threat of suit and the absence of proof that the former employee, in fact, committed the acts alleged, the Committee decided to take no action until a suit had been filed," the statement reads.
Butler said according to the district's files, St. Hilaire terminated his employment at his own will in October 1976.
With more individuals coming forward with claims of abuse, he said, the district will retain special counsel. However, the counsel the district was utilizing can no longer can serve the district and the School Committee voted to hire attorney Nancy Frankel Pelletier.
"The attorney we previously had who specialized in cases of abuse is no longer practicing and is now a judge," Butler said. "Essentially at this point, she can review the case files and that will be about it."
Butler added that the School Committee will not share details about the claims.
"Accordingly, no details and certainly any allegations on the district's investigation will be provided," he said. "It would not be appropriate for the district to comment on the claims, allegations or individuals at this time."
Before the executive session, the committee heard from solar developer Jaime Smith with Lodestar Energy who asked if the town would be interested in a virtual net-metering contract.
"It allows us to go and find pieces of land that we can use for solar and give you guys the benefit," Smith said. "There is no impact on how you buy electricity, who you buy from or when you buy."
He said his company is nearing the completion of a solar farm in Charlton and as the electricity gets pushed to National Grid, Lodestar has credits to provide to municipalities, housing authorities or school districts that will discount electricity costs.
"You will get your normal Grid bill with credits then you will get a bill from us for 80 cents on the dollar," he said. "So you are basically buying dollar bills for 80 cents."
He said there is no risk to the district but he would be looking for a contract of 10, 15 or 20 years.
School Committee member Darlene Rodowicz asked if Adams-Cheshire joins another district or if it no longer exists within the time of the contract, if the credits would be transferable.
"The population is shrinking and one of the options on the table is to form two or three districts in the county," she said. "Could the credits be transferred to the surviving district?"
Smith said he thought the credits could be transferred and said his company would take on the risk if the district does dissolve.
The Audit and Evaluation Subcommittee will continue the discussion at a future meeting.
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