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Marple’s lawsuit against state board moves forward

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Marple’s lawsuit against state board moves forward
By Kate White, The Charleston Gazette

A judge Monday denied a request by an attorney for the West Virginia Board of Education to allow the Supreme Court to decide whether former state schools superintendent Jorea Marple was an at-will employee.

Victor Flanagan, the school board’s lawyer, said immediately letting the high court decide whether Marple served at the will and pleasure of the state would save time and money.

“If they agree with us, the case will probably end,” Flanagan said.

However, for a judge to certify a question to be answered by the Supreme Court, Marple’s attorney, Tim Barber, said there has to be undisputed evidence. And Barber argued that just about everything is in dispute.

Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky agreed and refused to put the case on hold and allow the question to be sent to justices.

“I’m certainly pleased,” Marple said after the hearing. Patrick Maroney, another of Marple’s attorneys, said Monday’s ruling meant the case would move forward, and a trial date would soon be set.

In her lawsuit, Marple claims the board broke open-meetings laws when she was abruptly fired in 2012, and that former board president Wade Linger and other board members “contrived in secret for months before her actual termination and began an agenda to replace her.”

Marple claims she has faced severe defamation due to her termination and cannot secure education-related employment. She is asking for a full airing of issues in court and the opportunity to cross-examine all members of the state school board, which is currently led by Gayle Manchin, wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

Stucky previously refused to dismiss the wrongful termination case on the board’s claims that it’s protected from being sued because it’s a state agency. Flanagan has already filed a notice to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court. He’s also arguing that Linger shouldn’t be allowed to be sued because he was acting in his official capacity as a state official.

In his ruling in November, Stucky pointed to another West Virginia case where a court previously ruled that an at-will employee of the state cannot be dismissed “on charges that call into question her good name without being provided notice of the charges against her and a hearing in which the factual basis of the charges can be contested.”

Marple claims she did not know that she was being fired until Linger distributed pieces of paper with the intention at a regular board meeting and instructed board members to vote on the matter.

Board members entered into a closed-door executive session without Marple just before the vote.