Ex-president sues VFMA over claims Retired Navy Rear Admiral Peter A.C. Long resigned amid sexual-harassment allegations. He contends they were false.

Posted: November 02, 2005

The former president of Valley Forge Military Academy and College has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that board members "trumped up" allegations of sexual harassment to force his resignation from the Wayne school.

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Peter A.C. Long, 61, of Vero Beach, Fla., resigned last November after board trustees launched an investigation into allegations that Long behaved improperly toward four female employees.

He is seeking unspecified damages from the school, its board, and HR Impact, the outside firm the school hired to investigate Long's actions.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Long, who became president of the 600-student boarding school in 2000, denies making any inappropriate overtures toward women and accuses the board of manufacturing the allegations because they disliked his management style.

It was the school's trustees who hired HR Impact, of Newtown Square, to investigate Long's behavior.

After interviewing Long and the four female complainants, the company issued a report on Aug. 16, 2004, that the lawsuit claims was "distorted and slanted in such a fashion as to suggest that Admiral Long had committed sexual harassment when, in fact, he had not."

The school's attorney, Buck Riley, declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said "the actions taken by the board against Adm. Long were unanimous and taken for good reason."

Reached at the couple's home in Vero Beach, Long's wife said her husband was unavailable for comment. His attorney, Susan Mangold of West Chester, also declined to comment.

Long, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served as commander of the USS Kitty Hawk battle group, came to Valley Forge Military Academy in 2000 after serving as provost of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He was paid a salary of $161,800 and took up residence in the president's quarters, called Crossed Sabres, according to a copy of his employment contract.

In his complaint, Long claims that in his four years as president, he helped bring a nearly insolvent institution back to financial health and saw the school's average SAT score increase by 10 percent.

According to the lawsuit, two women interviewed by HR "described isolated instances of non-sexual, non-harassing contact."

A third woman denied that Long had been inappropriate, the lawsuit contends.

"A fourth . . . described a peck on the cheek that allegedly made her feel uncomfortable, for which Admiral Long apologized and did not repeat," the complaint says.

Long was repeatedly asked to sign the HR Impact report, but he refused after claiming that it contained inaccuracies and was only devised to oust him. HR Impact did not return a reporter's phone message.

It "appears to us to be a piece of advocacy, fraught with misstatements and factual inaccuracies," said James A. Sargent, Long's attorney at the time.

The trustees, however, moved to allow Long's continued employment on several new conditions, including written apologies to the women.

Long refused, characterizing the board's demands as "unfair and draconian new conditions that they anticipated [he] would not accept."

Contact staff writer Oliver Prichard at 610-313-8219 or oprichard@phillynews.com.

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