2006 Unravelled

Continued from Part 1:

The controversy surrounding Vallante didn’t end in 2005, though, as more evidence of his harassment came to light.

In 2006, Vallante enrolled as a graduate in the preparation of later applying for a Master’s Degree in Education at KSC in the field of school counseling, according to the report. An alumnus of NEC, named as KSC Jane Doe, was attending the same graduate courses.

KSC Jane Doe knew NEC Student 2, a former NEC basketball player, who had received inappropriate phone calls from Vallante in 2001-2002. KSC Jane Doe recognized Vallante in one of her graduate courses and immediately complained to Len Fleischer, a professor of Education and Psychology in the School of Professional & Graduate Studies at KSC.

In a follow-up conversation after KSC Jane Doe described the sexually-explicit content of Vallante’s phone calls to NEC Student 2, Fleischer told her that Vallante had denied all allegations. During the investigation, Fleischer did not recall speaking to KSC Jane Doe in 2006.

In the fall of 2006, Susan Theberge, the coordinator of the School Counseling Program at KSC, noticed some patchy information in applicant Vallante’s background. She asked to sit down with Fleischer and Vallante to discuss his experience. Theberge asked Vallante about his departure from NEC and according to the report, Vallante said he left NEC in good standing and everything was fine.

Fleischer noticed Vallante appearing to be “too casual and comfortable in his own skin,” according to the report. Fleischer felt he and Theberge needed more information from NEC.

Theberge contacted KSC’s Director of Human Resources, Kim Harkness regarding Vallante. Theberge and Harkness discussed the rumor that Vallante had left NEC due to accusations of harassment. Harkness asked oral permission to contact NEC.

Vallante emphasized to Theberge that he had contacted a lawyer with respect to the sexual harassment allegations. “My concern is that I am being forced to deal with an unsubstantiated rumor about me being fired for a sexual harassment charge,” Vallante said in an email to Theberge.

Denial and miscommunication:

Harkness wanted more. According to the report, she contacted NEC Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier and NEC Human Resources Director Leslie Bateman, but neither of them would talk to her about Vallante.

“It is very frustrating to me that New England College would choose to not disclose information regarding an employee who worked closely with students and may have put NEC students at risk,” Harkness said in an email to Runksmeier and Bateman. Runksmeier responded saying she was unable to speak in regards to Vallante’s employment at NEC and Harkness implied Runksmeier was unwilling.

After NEC refused to cooperate with Harkness as part of KSC’s investigation, she did not take any further action regarding Vallante.

The report suggested that Harkness could have done more with the investigation by communicating with KSC Jane Doe, which would have connected her to NEC Student 2.

Harkness did not contact Ratliff, Colbert or Vallante’s supervisors.

Ratliff did not tell Harkness about NEC Student 3’s emails in 2005 discussing his mental anguish, the report stated.

He ignored NEC Student 3’s emails offering to go into detail about what Vallante had done at NEC and stating that Vallante should not be allowed in college athletics.

Vallante withdrew his application for obtaining a Master’s Degree in School Counseling at KSC.

In the report, Harkness said she could not recall making reports to her boss, former KSC President, Helen Giles-Gee.

Steven Boudreau was a KSC basketball player from 2008-2012. According to Boudreau,in the Summer of 2010, NEC Student 2 described Vallante as “weird” but was not specific with his reasoning. The report also stated that Boudreau agreed Vallante was weird and shared a rumor that Vallante asked questions about penis size while he was a student at KSC.

NEC Student 2 claimed he gave Boudreau a “quick overview” of the types of sexual comments Vallante had made to the NEC team in 2001-2002. “Boudreau agreed Vallante was a weird guy, and although Vallante had never spoken to Boudreau inappropriately, Boudreau knew current KSC players that were experiencing the same conduct NEC Student 2 had described,” the report stated.

Boudreau did not identify the KSC players involved in the same behavior regarding Vallante. In May 2011, NEC Student contacted KSC Head Basketball Coach Rob Colbert.

NEC students take action:

A group of former NEC basketball players gathered together to reflect on their past encounters with Vallante and decided to put together an email to express their complaints. The email to Colbert wrote:

“My teammates and I have gotten together and 8 years later and we are still disturbed by this and feel it is time we let you know about it. Ask any of your players in private about the conversations they have with Gino . . . I can guarantee this is still happening to your players and potentially your recruits.”

NEC Student 2 and Colbert spoke briefly on the phone after the email was received. NEC Student 2 told him Vallante should not be coaching around students at KSC.

Colbert fails to follow up:

Colbert called Boudreau to consult him about NEC Student 2’s email. “Boudreau denied he had been subjected to any conversations that mirrored the accusations in the email,” the report stated. Colbert did not reach out to any other NEC alumni copied on NEC Student 2’s email. Boudreau, a junior at the time,  did not share information about a rumor involving Vallante asking about penis size.

After a follow-up email sent to Colbert by NEC Student 2, Colbert responded saying he “[felt] very odd speaking about this on any further basis,” according to an email in the report. The report states that the former NEC basketball players felt it was Colbert’s job to address the problem.

When NEC Student 3 found out about Colbert’s neglect to take action, the student immediately communicated with Colbert himself. NEC Student 3 was an assistant basketball coach at a well-known private high school, according to the report, and hoped his complaint against Vallante would be taken seriously.

Colbert did not request any of NEC Student 3’s documentation of Vallante’s sexual harassment  that the student offered as proof. Colbert continued to withhold this information from his assistant coaches at the time.

Memory fades for Colbert and Ratliff:

Colbert and Ratliff could not recall discussing the NEC alumni complaints from 2011. Both “provided inconsistent information to Harkness about their discussions in 2011,” the report said. Harkness interviewed Ratliff and Colbert jointly and she found that they both discussed the nature of NEC Student 2 and NEC Student 3’s complaints in 2011, but Ratliff did not read the actual emails.

In the summer of 2012, a KSC basketball player, KSC John Doe 1, had confided in Assistant Coach Matt Adams about “weird stuff” he was receiving from Vallante.

During the investigation, Adams could not recall his conversations with KSC John Doe 1.

Adams reported the matter to Colbert, who wanted to speak with KSC John Doe 1 about the issue. “Colbert recalled KSC John Doe 1 told him about one comment Vallante had made about KSC John Doe 1 having the biggest penis on the team,” the report said. Colbert did not report or document the conversation he had with KSC John Doe 1.

After talking, Colbert told KSC John Doe 1 to “go back” and let him know if something was really bothering him. Following the conversation with KSC John Doe 1, Colbert made a comment to Vallante to “cut the shit” and Colbert did not receive any further complaints regarding Vallante.

Exposure of 2011:

Roughly three years ago in 2011, Colbert had a conversation with Paul Striffolino, current director of the student center and assistant vice president of student affairs at KSC. While casually talking, Colbert mentioned receiving anonymous communication about Vallante.

“According to Striffolino, Colbert did not tell him what the anonymous communication was about, and Striffolino did not ask him about it,” the report said. Striffolino did not act on the comment because he felt that it was “far removed, involved basketball, and took place over ten years ago.”

Colbert told investigators that his contact with Striffolino took place in 2005, as opposed to 2011. The report stated that Colbert felt it was another school’s issue. “Colbert confirmed that he only spoke to Striffolino about Vallante in 2005, and had no further conversations with Striffolino after 2005.”

2014 complaints spark KSC investigation: 

In late January 2014, NEC Student 1 contacted the Keene Sentinel, the KSC President’s office and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office with information about Vallante. This sparked the College’s attention and “the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office also provided its recorded interview of NEC Student 1 to KSC,” the report states.

KSC began their own investigation and Vallante was removed from campus on February 14, 2014. Less than a month later, the report says, “KSC terminated Vallante’s employment” on March 7, 2014.

MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at mclarke@kscequinox.com

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