By Linda Harris, Legal Reporter
The State Journal
Attorneys for the state Board of Education have asked Kanawha County Circuit Judge James C. Stucky to dismiss a breech of contract complaint filed by former Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple.
Marple, terminated in November 2012, claims she was unlawfully fired and that members of the Board of Education had secretly plotted to oust her. Her suit, which she recently refiled, names former board president Wade Linger as a co-defendant, and alleges the board violated the open meetings law.
However, J. Victor Flanagan and Linnsey M. Amores of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, suggested in their petition to dismiss that as a state agency, the Board of Education is immune from prosecution.
They also pointed out Marple was not under contract and actually served at the will and pleasure of board members, consequently a decision by them to terminate her employment was within their discretion.
“That action was part of the board’s constitutionally dervied governmental function,” the motion stated.
Because she was an at-will employee, they said Marple was not entitled to continued employment. They also insist nothing was said that would reflect poorly on Marple or damage her hirability. When pressed for a comment, the motion said Linder pointed only to a “litany of statistics” showing declining student test results in recent years while acknowledging Marple was no more responsible than “governors, legislators, eeducators or board members.”
“The board determined that in order to fix these problems we needed to head in a new direction with new leadership,” he was quoted in the meeting minutes as saying, adding some of the reasons board members perceived a change was needed was that “many board members found no sense of urgency in the department to address some of the issues that have been outlined; when discussing concerns, we often were met with excuses and not actions; too often we were told how things can’t change instead of being offered solutions; when current practices were challenged, we often found people being defensive.”
The board subsequently adopted that statement as its position, the minutes reflected.
Marple had asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston to dismiss her original lawsuit, which did not single Linder out as defendant, without prejudice so she could strip it of federal implications and refile in state court. Johnston granted that motion April 25.