NORTH ADAMS -- A drug possession charge against a former Adams-Cheshire school administrator was continued without a finding for one year on Tuesday.
Kurt Garivaltis, 46, was director of special services at Adams-Cheshire Regional School District (ACRSD) last January when he was arrested at Cheshire Elementary School and charged with possession of a Percocet pill, a class B drug. He was fired about two weeks later.
On Tuesday, after admitting to sufficient facts against him for a guilty finding, the charge was continued without a disposition until Jan. 14, 2015. He was fined $50 in Northern Berkshire District Court.
The Berkshire District Attorney's Office had sought a finding of guilty and a probation sentence, according to Garivaltis' attorney Leanord Cohen. If Garivaltis is not convicted of any new crimes in the next year, the charge will be dropped from his record.
"What's important for me is that there were [accusations] about buying, selling and all sorts of awful things," Garivaltis said on Tuesday. "I was only charged with possession of a pill -- possession of a pill that I had been prescribed."
The Berkshire County Drug Task Force conducted a search warrant of Garivaltis' car, briefcase and office last January, based on accusations made by two informants. One of those informants also alleged that Garivaltis had illegally bought and sold drugs, according to the criminal complaint.
Cohen said there was never any evidence of intent to distribute drugs and noted charges of that nature were never brought against his client.
According to Cohen, Judge Laurie MacLeod based her decision on Garivaltis' seven-year career at the school and the snowmobile accident that precipitated his prescription drug use.
Garivaltis broke 19 bones and suffered internal bleeding after a serious snowmobile accident near his East Road home in Adams five years ago, he said. He was airlifted to Albany Medical Center where he was treated for four weeks, followed by another four-week stint at a rehabilitation center for his injuries.
"He was using a certain pain medication, and the pain medication had been with him a long time, and he really became addicted," Cohen said.
For more than one year, Garivaltis has undergone therapy and had not tested positive for any drug he is not still prescribed, according to Cohen.
"Could you say I was abusing it? Yes," Garivaltis said. "Did I seek counciling? Yes."
After the arrest, Garivaltis was placed on unpaid administrative leave for two weeks before eventually being dismissed by the district. He was ineligible for unemployment benefits.
"I was not happy with the termination process at all," Garivaltis said. "There was no conversation with me about ‘Kurt, you are having a problem.' "
ACRSD Superintendent Kristen Gordon did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.
According to its website, the district has a "drug-free workplace policy" and notes that possession of a controlled substance at school is prohibited.
After being fired by ACRSD, Garivaltis and his wife divorced. He now lives at his parents' home in Pittsfield.
"It's been a complete nightmare," Garivaltis said.
Since the incident, Garivaltis said he has applied for three jobs at public schools and has never been interviewed. An opening at a private school looked promising, he said, but fizzled out.
After Tuesday's court proceedings, Garivaltis said he is optimistic about his future.
"I am very hopeful today was the first big step in my return, and my kids' return, to where we were," Garivaltis said.
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