Horace Mann may finally be making good on its word to the family of an alleged sexual abuse victim by stripping the trustee emeritus title from a man accused of ignoring their allegations and intimidating them into silence.
On May 9, Horace Mann School removed Michael Hess’ name from a list of trustee emeriti on its website.
Mr. Hess was on the Horace Mann Board of Trustees in 1993, when Benjamin Balter reported in a letter to the administration that art department chair Johannes Somary had made inappropriate advances toward him. According to Benjamin’s brother Charles Balter, Mr. Hess, then acting as an attorney for the school, convened a conference with several trustees and Mr. Balter’s mother, who was also a teacher at the school.
Mr. Hess reportedly told her that the school wouldn’t investigate the allegations without recorded evidence of impropriety.
After serving as chief counsel for the city under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Mr. Hess went on to work for Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm and defended Alan Placa, a childhood friend of Mr. Guiliani’s, when he was accused of sexually abusing boys as a monsignor in Long Island. Mr. Placa also worked for Giuliani Partners, according to news reports.
Mr. Hess was elevated to chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1994, a position he maintained until 2001.
Mr. Balter said the school’s attorneys informed him in March that Horace Mann would strip the “trustee emeritus” status from Mr. Hess.
But on May 1, The Riverdale Press reported that Mr. Hess’ name appeared on a class of 1958 55th year reunion invitation. It asked guests to join Head of School Thomas Kelly, Mr. Hess and Richard Traum, both members of the reunion committee, on Saturday, May 11, for brunch at Mr. Kelly’s home and for cocktails and drinks at the Waldorf Astoria.
Mr. Balter had a subsequent conversation with Horace Mann’s Head of School Thomas Kelly, and Mr. Hess’ name was removed from Horace Mann’s website days later.