CHARLESTON – Former state Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jorea M. Marple is suing the state Board of Education after she claims she was wrongfully terminated from her employment.
Marple began her employment as superintendent in January 2011, according to a complaint filed Feb. 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Marple claims her terms of employment included a provision that she would serve at the “will and pleasure” of the defendant and during the course of her employment, she received exemplary performance evaluations by independent investigation that were submitted by the defendant, the last of which was filed in June.
In March, L. Wade Linger Jr., the president of the West Virginia Department of Education, began an agenda of his own to replace Marple in her position as superintendent and he contacted people to replace her, according to the suit.
Marple claims Linger also contacted various board members to achieve their agreement to his proposed actions.
An agenda for a regularly held meeting was published for the meeting scheduled for Nov. 14, which included a notation that a personnel matter would be addressed in executive session during the meeting, according to the suit.
Marple claims during the executive session, Linger presented his agenda for terminating her from her position and illegally tallied a vote of a majority of the board to sustain the firing.
When the board members returned to the open meeting, Linger announced Marple’s termination would be effective at the end of the day on Nov. 15 and gave no vote details from the executive session, according to the suit.
Board members Gayle Manchin, Robert Dunlevy, William White, Michael Green and Lloyd Jackson voted along with Linger to terminate Marple’s employment.
Members Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips voted against firing her and resigned from the board the same day Marple was terminated.
Marple claims she had both a liberty and property interest in her employment by the defendant, which were violated by her summary dismissal from her position as superintendent.
Part of West Virginia public policy is that all contracts, including agreements of employment, include a provision that the parties shall deal with one another in good faith and fairness, free of arbitrary, capricious or despotic action, according to the suit.
Marple claims the defendant’s decision to fire her violated the public policy.
James B. Phares was hired to replace Marple. He assumed the role on Jan. 2 and became the state's 28th superintendent of schools.
As a result of the defendant’s actions, Marple suffered a loss of a life-time reputation in the field of education; a loss of her ability to gain employment on any level approaching that of superintendent of schools; mental anguish and suffering; impaired ability to enjoy life; and she will never have the status in her personal and/or professional life to remedy the damage done to her, according to the suit.
Marple is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and a “full airing of the issues” in court. She is being represented by Timothy N. Barber; Thomas Patrick Maroney of Maroney Williams Weaver & Pancake; and A. Andrew MacQueen III.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Louis H. Bloom.
The state Supreme Court has already denied a petition that sought to challenge the firing of Marple.
The petition was filed on behalf of the parents of a special needs child and said the Board of Education did not have the question of Marple’s employment on the agenda of its Nov. 14-15 meeting.
This was in violation of the Open Governmental Proceedings Act, the suit said.
However, on Nov. 29, the board fired Marple again, this time with a properly noticed agenda. Jim Phares is now the state superintendent.
Marple, the wife of former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, was the state’s first female superintendent, having been sworn in on March 1, 2011.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-315