CLARKSBURG - A Monongalia County commissioner has filed his objections to a federal magistrate judge’s recommendation that he not be granted the preliminary injunction he seeks against his employer, the county Board of Education.

On Oct. 16, Tom Bloom filed objections to U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Kaull’s report that said Bloom should not receive an injunction that would allow him to miss time from his job as guidance counselor at Morgantown High School to attend county commission meetings on Wednesdays.

Bloom is having trouble attending commission meetings because they are held while he is at work. He is in his first year as a commissioner.

“The findings of fact by the Magistrate fail to recognize that high school guidance counselors often have to meet with parents, students, law enforcement personnel, mental health professionals and others outside of the regular school day hours,” Bloom’s attorney wrote.

“The Magistrate Judge’s Report further disregards Plaintiff’s testimony that he works an average of seven to 10 hours per week over and above the regular school week of 37 ½ hours.”

In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, Bloom is arguing the Board of Education has violated his First Amendment rights by not allowing him to take half-days off to attend commission meetings, which take place on Wednesday afternoons.

Bloom’s current proposal is working through his lunch period on Wednesdays and leaving work at 12:55 p.m. He would only be missing 1.5 hours each week, and he said that time would be qualified as unpaid leave.

“Bloom has not clearly shown that an injunction is in the public interest,” Kaull wrote.

“To the contrary, if the undersigned were to recommend an injunction under the facts and law applicable to this case, not only would it be a violation of the law as applied, it would invite anyone who claims to have an interest in speaking on a matter of public concern to demand their employer let them leave work to do so.

“As argued, this would mean that the McDonald’s employee or the local policeman or the local hospital emergency room doctor or nurse could unilaterally leave his or her job during work hours, without repercussion from the employer, to attend a rally in protest of a local exotic book store or club.”

Meanwhile, a petition to allow Bloom to take the unpaid leave and attend meetings while keeping his job has reached 661 signatures, as of Oct. 22. It was to be presented to the Board of Education that day at its meeting.

Bloom is represented by William E. Ford III of Ford Law Office and Robert M. Bastress, Jr. The board is represented by Kenneth L. Hopper and Keith C. Gamble of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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