- Rich Klein
EXCLUSIVE: Tri-Valley Schools, Former Teacher Wales Hit With Another Child Sex Abuse Lawsuit
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
(This story was updated late Thursday, February 25, to include a short interview with Wales plus a statement from the attorney for the two plaintiffs).
A lawsuit was filed yesterday by two former Tri-Valley Central School District students who allege that Donald Wales, then an elementary school teacher, sexually abused them multiple times between 1979 and 1984 - at sites that included Wales' home, at Grossinger's and parked in a car at the Rondout Reservoir after first grooming them while in school.
The plaintiffs are Jeffrey Cloonan and Sean Boyle, whose attorneys filed the suit under New York State's Child Victims Act (CVA) that took effect in August 2019.
Tri -Valley Elementary School, Tri-Valley Central School District and the Board of Education of the Tri-Valley Central School District are also named with Wales as defendants in the case.
This suit, filed in State Supreme Court/Sullivan County, follows another CVA suit filed in 2019 against Wales with similar allegations. The plaintiff in that case is Mark Dolgas. (His case is on the calendar again March 23 before State Supreme Court Justice Michael L. Mackey).
Reached today about the new lawsuit, Tri-Valley Board of Education President Keri Poley, declined comment, citing pending litigation. School Superintendent Michael Williams also declined comment.
The SullivanTimes today (Wednesday) has reached out to the plaintiffs in both cases and their attorneys as well as Wales' defense attorney. Wales, now 85, and living in Florida, could not be reached for comment at press time.
But on Thursday, February 25, Wales called back and spoke for a few minutes.
"The Cloonans were very good friends of mine," he said. "He (Cloonan's father) was my golf partner. We played at least once a week and I had many dinners with them. Jeff was in my class in 4th grade. And I never touched him at all, sexually. And Sean Boyle, I do not know who he is."
Wales confirmed that he did remember "the name" Mark Dolgas (the plaintiff from an earlier suit). "I remember the name...I don't remember the person," Wales said of Dolgas.
Wales told The SullivanTimes today that his health is deteriorating based on a brain operation and a stroke suffered almost two years ago. "To be honest, my memory of the whole affair is very cloudy," he said.
The latest suit alleges that between 1972 and 1984 "it is believed that Wales sexually abused or had improper contact with dozens of boys who were students at Tri-Valley Elementary School." During the 1980s, at least five of those boys settled their lawsuits with the district and Wales, according to the latest suit. Wales said that settlement involved about three cases.
Hugh D. Sandler, a partner with New York City law firm Krantz & Berman LLP who is representing Cloonan and Boyle, told The SullivanTimes on Thursday:
"This lawsuit, like Mr. Dolgas’s, was brought in the hope of obtaining some level of justice for the allegations of horrifying sexual abuse that these men suffered when they were elementary school students. As alleged in the complaints, we hope to assist these brave men in holding the Tri-Valley Schools accountable for their ongoing failures which allowed for their abuse by Tri-Valley’s employee, Donald Wales.”
Wales had a prior history of sexual abuse while teaching in the Warwick Central School District. While on criminal probation after sodomizing a student there, in 1972 he applied for a position at Tri-Valley. He received a written offer of employment in July 1972, according the latest lawsuit.
Other local CVA lawsuits include multiple cases against the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, which owns Ten Mile River scout camps in Narrowsburg, and one against Camp Agudah in Liberty.
Editor's Note: The author of this article is also a plaintiff in a Child Victims Act lawsuit that was filed in 2019.