Ex-Grant school superintendent goes to court to get job back

By Kelly Holleran | Jun 23, 2009

ELKINS -- The superintendent of Grant County Schools has filed a complaint in federal court in an attempt to override the school board's decision to terminate her from her job.

Marsha Carr-Lambert filed a lawsuit May 12 in U.S. District Court against the Grant County Board of Education and three board members -– Dottie Riggleman, Joyce Riggleman and David Jones.

Carr-Lambert says the three board members voted not to renew her contract as superintendent of the schools in retaliation for her help in the arrest of the employer of Jones and of one of the Rigglemans' family members.

Tim Riggleman, the son of Dottie Riggleman and husband of Joyce Riggleman, is employed by Robert Sisk, the president of the Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College. Sisk also hired Jones to work at the center.

Before his job as president of the EWVCTC, Sisk worked as the director of the South Branch Career and Technical Center, where Carr-Lambert also served as member of the administrative council.

After Sisk's retirement from the SBCTC in June 2007, problems with his past business practices and procedures were brought to the attention of SBCTC's administrative council, according to the complaint.

So, the council ordered the new director, Randy Whetstone, to conduct an informal inquiry and investigation into the matter and to report the results back to it.

Following the informal investigation, the administrative council voted to have an independent audit conducted.

"Once news of the audit became public, the plaintiff became the target of accusation, innuendo and harassment on the part of Robert Sisk," the complaint says. "Plaintiff was accused of conducting a witch hunt and was threatened with legal action if she did not cease her efforts to acquire information regarding the past business practices and procedures of Robert Sisk."

On the same day the administrative council voted in favor of the audit, Sisk's attorney faxed a letter to Whetstone. In the letter, Sisk accused Whetstone and Carr-Lambert of attempting to disparage him and to damage his reputation in the community, the suit states.

Carr-Lambert says Sisk also sent the letter to Joyce Riggleman and Dottie Riggleman.

In addition, Sisk contacted Joyce Riggleman and informed her that Carr-Lambert "was out to get him" and that he needed her assistance, according to the complaint.

"Joyce Riggleman further stated that her husband could not lose his job and that she didn't care about anything but their income and her spouse was just trying to survive," the complaint says. "Dottie Riggleman and Joyce Riggleman verbally threatened the plaintiff regarding her job as Superintendent if she did not modify her position regarding the investigation of the SBCTC."

Finally, in March 2008, the results of the audit were received and reviewed by the administrative council, who referred the audit to the Grant County prosecutor.

Sisk was arrested and charged with petit larceny, the suit states.

Carr-Lambert says she testified at Sisk's trial in August 2008 on behalf of the prosecution, but Sisk was found not guilty of the charges.

After Carr-Lambert's testimony, Joyce Riggleman met in private with the president of the Grant County Board of Education in an attempt to gain his support for Carr-Lambert's removal, according to the complaint.

In addition, Dottie Riggleman contacted the aunt of Tony Oates, the Grant County Board of Education's treasurer, on Sept. 9 about trying to meet privately with him, the suit states.

"Dottie Riggleman's purpose in seeking a private meeting with Tony Oates was to obtain a statement from him falsely accusing the plaintiff of coercing Oates to lie during his testimony at the Robert Sisk trial," the complaint says.

Tim Riggleman, too, tried to obtain a statement from Oates, falsely accusing Carr-Lambert of coercing Oates to lie during Sisk's testimony, according to the complaint.

Following Sisk's trial and release, the Grant County School Board cast a 3 to 2 vote against renewing Carr-Lambert's contract as superintendent. She has served in the spot since 1999, but following the vote, her term is scheduled to end on June 30, the suit states.

Because of the vote, Carr-Lambert says she has been deprived of wages and other benefits and has suffered anxiety, trauma, stress, emotional distress, embarrassment and loss of future employment prospects.

Carr-Lambert is asking the court to reinstate her to her position as superintendent, to prevent the defendants from further retaliatory acts against her and to grant a declaratory judgment proclaiming that the defendants' conduct violates the law.

She is also seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, plus back pay, damages for her lost future earning capacity, attorneys' fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

She will be represented by Harry P. Waddell of Martinsburg and by David M. Hammer of Martinsburg.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-CV-61

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