Go to Destination: Scandal!

Chevy Chase Principal Resigns

Male Prostitute Allegations Probed

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, Sept. 26, 1989; Page B01

Gabriel A. Massaro, the principal of Chevy Chase Elementary School, resigned yesterday after Montgomery County school officials concluded that he had "compromised the security of his school" by allowing a male prostitute to use the building at night.

Massaro turned in his resignation, effective immediately, after a morning meeting with Superintendent Harry Pitt, who indicated that he was prepared to advise the county's school board to dismiss the popular principal.

"Had Dr. Massaro not resigned," Pitt said in a prepared statement, "I do not believe I could have recommended his continued employment."

A Montgomery school administrator since 1978 and former president of the county's association of elementary principals, Massaro relinquished his $67,975-a-year job less than a week after school officials finished investigating allegations that he had let prostitute Stephen L. Gobie into the school.

Gobie, who also has had a relationship with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), told the Washington Times last month that, for two months during the fall of 1987, he had used a telephone in a Chevy Chase guidance counselor's office at night to make appointments with prostitution clients. Gobie also said he and Massaro had a four-year relationship.

Massaro, who has been suspended with pay since Aug. 25, has been unavailable for comment.

School officials have refused publicly to divulge the findings from their investigation, conducted by the school system's personnel director. Pitt said yesterday only that the probe did not yield evidence of any criminal behavior by Massaro or any "improper conduct involving children or other staff members."

One knowledgeable source said, "What they found was {Gobie} used the building . . . . It must have been a relatively convincing case of it."

While Massaro remained unreachable yesterday, his lawyer, Paul W. Nolan, said in an interview that "Dr. Massaro's position is that he has done nothing illegal or anything constituting neglect of office . . . . Dr. Massaro was motivated by concern to assist a person who he thought at the time was a friend."

Nolan also said his client "feels as if he has been treated unfairly by the superintendent's office." He said that school officials "never shared with us the factual basis for their conclusions," denying requests for a copy of the investigation report.

In a statement, Nolan said, "We concluded that the intense media coverage has led . . . Pitt . . . to seriously consider recommendation of Dr. Massaro's dismissal, despite his many years of admittedly exemplary service with the school system . . . . Dr. Massaro firmly believes that everyone who knows him realizes that the allegations of misconduct are baseless."

In the interview, Nolan said his client's resignation "was voluntary in that Dr. Massaro signed a piece of paper without a gun pointed to his head." He added that the principal was reluctant to challenge any school board effort to fire him because the appeals process could have taken more than a year.

"He wanted to get on with his life," Nolan said, adding that Massaro did not have any job plans. His wife, Cora Massaro, is on voluntary leave from her job as a librarian at Woodlin Elementary School in Silver Spring.

A well-liked principal who drew praise for his intelligence, sensitivity and knowledge of education theory, Massaro had worked for two years at Chevy Chase, a magnet school specializing in math, science and computers for 350 third- through sixth-graders. He earlier had been the principal of Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda and had joined the school system as a curriculum specialist.

Yesterday, Chevy Chase PTA leaders, informed by school officials of Massaro's resignation, expressed a blend of regret and relief. "I'm sorry Dr. Massaro will not be the principal because he did a very fine job," said PTA co-president Deborah Wood. "But under the circumstances, the general feeling among parents is it would be very difficult for him to continue . . . . It was very poor judgment on Dr. Massaro's part."

Pitt said that Pat Abrunzo, who has been the acting principal for a month, would remain in the job for the rest of the school year.

© 1996 The Washington Post Co.

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