CHARLESTON – Former state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple wants her wrongful termination lawsuit against the state Board of Education remanded to state court.
Marple sued the board in February, alleging an agenda to fire her on the part of Department of Education President Wade Linger. Marple, who became the state’s first female superintendent in January 2011, was fired in November in a vote by the board.
Marple has also filed a motion to dismiss her complaint that would still allow her to file a new complaint.
“The issues involved in this action are purely West Virginia law issues,” Marple’s attorney Timothy Barber wrote in a memorandum in support of her motion to dismiss.
“The principle issue of discharging an at-will and pleasure employee may be one of first impression.”
In March 2012, Winger began an agenda of his own to replace Marple in her position as superintendent and he contacted people to replace her, according to the complaint.
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.
The board has also filed a motion to dismiss. It is being represented by J. Victor Flanagan and Linnsey M. Amores of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe.
“Plaintiff served at the will and pleasure of the Board of Education,” the motion says. “State agencies with appointment power for will and pleasure employees are prohibited from forming contracts of employment under West Virginia law.
“Therefore, Plaintiff has no contractual claim upon which relief can be granted by this court.”
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.