Former deputy sheriff sues Mason school chief for defamation
Lawrence Smith Mar. 22, 2012, 3:57am
POINT PLEASANT – A former Mason County Sheriff's deputy alleges the superintendent of schools defamed him in remarks she gave to the media about him being investigated for making inappropriate remarks about a student's T-shirt.
Suzanne Dickens is named in a three-count defamation suit filed by Robert Glenn in Mason Circuit Court. In his complaint filed March 9, Glenn alleges Dickens last year prematurely affirmed to a television station Glenn, while working as the prevention resource officer at Hannan Senior and Junior High School sexually harassed a female student.
In West Virginia, prevention resource officers are uniformed police officers who, among other things, serve as security guards in public schools, and teach students about bullying.
According to his suit, Dickens on March 18, 2011, made statements to WSAZ-TV 3 about Glenn "engag[ing] in inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment, toward students at the high school, even though no formal complaint had been filed" against him. The suit does not provide any more details except he "was ultimately reinstated to the Sheriff's Department by the Mason County Circuit Court, though he then voluntarily resigned."
In a related suit he filed in August, Glenn was informed by then-Sheriff David Anthony via a letter dated March 18 he was being suspended pending completion of an investigation regarding a comment he made about a T-shirt Kelsey Williams recently wore to HHS. Five students reported to the principal that Glenn said a Hooter's T-Shirt Williams wore should've said mosquito bites.
In that suit, Glenn was informed a week later via letter he'd been fired. Immediately, he appealed his termination to the Mason County Deputy Sheriff's Civil Service Commission, which, following a hearing on April 11, on May 20 affirmed Anthony's decision to fire him.
The Commission erred in affirming Anthony's decision, Glenn stated in his appeal, due to, among other things, Anthony's failure to provide him a pre-disciplinary hearing as required by state law. Citing the state Supreme Court's 2009 decision in Burgess v. Moore, Judge Thomas C. Evans III on Dec. 8 agreed, and remanded the case back to the Commission.
Evans' decision came a month after Anthony was ordered into court-ordered rehabilitation following his arrest on Nov. 11 on a charge of wanton endangerment. The week before, while drunk, and in the presence of two of his deputies shot over the head of his son, Dawson, as he was exiting the rear of their home.
In January, Anthony was indicted by the grand jury not only for wanton endangerment, but also shooting near a dwelling, domestic assault, brandishing and 38 counts of embezzlement, and fraudulent scheme on misusing his state issued purchasing card. Earlier this month, Anthony resigned as sheriff as part of a plea agreement.
In exchange for not only his resignation, but also his agreement to withdraw his candidacy for re-election, surrender his law enforcement certification, issue a formal apology to other county officials for statements he made they, too, misused the purchase card, enter a plea of guilty to the brandishing and shooting near a dwelling and no contest to two of the embezzlement counts, all misdemeanors, Mason County Prosecutor Damon Morgan agreed to dismiss the remaining charges.
Four days after Evans' ruling, the Mason County Commission agreed to reinstate Glenn, pay him $24,243.46 in pay back and allow him to tender his resignation. As part of the agreement, the Sheriff's Department agreed to remove all documentation regarding the allegations from Glenn's personnel file, and provide him a positive reference to future employers.
In his current suit, Glenn alleges Dickens "knowingly, recklessly, willfully, wantonly and maliciously slander and/or libel and/or defame" him by stating to WSAZ he "had sexually harassed children at Hannan High, with the knowledge that said information was false." As a result, Glenn alleges he has suffered "embarrassment, annoyance, inconvenience, [and] emotional distress."
Glenn seeks unspecified damages. He is represented by former Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Clifford.
The case is assigned to Judge David W. Nibert.
Following the announcement that then-Superintendant William Capehart was resigning to take a position at the University of Rio Grande, the Board of Education on July 29, 2010, hired Dickens as interim superintendant. Capehart had only been superintendant for a short time after the Board hired him to replace Larry A. Parsons, who was appointed by the state Board of Education to take over the troubled Preston County school system.
Prior to her retirement, Dickens, 69, of Point Pleasant, served as assistant superintendant under Parsons. Last February, the Board voted unanimously to hire her full-time until June 30, 2013.
Her salary is $111,500.
Mason Circuit Court case number 12-C-29