Mon County commissioner's lawsuit against school board transferred

By John O'Brien | Apr 30, 2013

CLARKSBURG – The Monongalia County Board of Education has removed a lawsuit filed against it by a county commissioner who also works in the school system to federal court.

The board removed Tom Bloom’s lawsuit, originally filed April 11 in Monongalia Circuit Court, to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on April 25. The lawsuit says the board violated Bloom’s First Amendment rights by not allowing him to take half-days off to attend commission meetings.

Since Bloom is arguing the board violated the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the case should be heard in federal court, the board is arguing.

Barbara L. Parsons, Michael L. Kelly, Ron Lytle, Nancy Walker, Clarence Harvey Jr. and Frank M. Devono were also named as defendants in the suit.

Bloom has been employed by the Board of Education as a guidance counselor since Aug. 22, 1977, and through the end of the school year 2012, he was assigned to University High School, according to a complaint filed April 11 in Monongalia Circuit Court.

Bloom claims on Dec. 2, 2011, he announced his pre-candidacy for County Commissioner of Monongalia County for the Democratic primary election to be held on May 8.

On Jan. 9, 2012, Bloom formally announced his candidacy for the open County Commission seat and between Jan. 11 and May 2012, the UHS principal and Devono combined to reprimand and/or cite Bloom for a total of nine times for alleged violation of School Board policies and rules, according to the suit.

Bloom claims he filed a grievance and denied the alleged violations asserted against him and on May 8, he won the primary election for the Democratic Party nomination.

On June 12, Devono presented evidence of the alleged infraction on one of the pending reprimand/disciplinary actions and Bloom denied the charge and presented evidence on his behalf, according to the suit, and Bloom advised the school board of Devono’s actions since Dec. 2, 2011, which he claimed constituted a pattern and practice of actions designed to thwart and interfere with his candidacy and were egregious violations of his rights.

Bloom claims on June 13, the defendants’ counsel contacted his counsel to negotiate a confidential settlement of the charges pending against him after the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Bloom requested and was granted a transfer to Morgantown High School, where he continues to be employed.

On Nov. 6, Bloom won the general election for County Commissioner and on Dec. 9, Bloom was advised informally by MHS’s principal that Devono would not grant a request for flex time or be allowed to take unpaid leaves of absence in half-day increments, but that he could take unpaid leaves of absence in full-day increments, according to the suit.

Bloom claims on Jan. 3, the Monongalia County Commission requested Devono to cooperate in granting flex time and further advised that the County Commission was temporarily moving the meeting to 3 p.m. to accommodate Bloom until the matter was resolved.

The defendants’ acts, conduct and behavior were performed knowingly, intentionally, in bad faith and/or with reckless or callous indifference to the protected rights of others, according to the suit.

Bloom claims the defendants have violated his First Amendment Rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.

The defendants also violated Bloom’s 14th Amendment rights by not allowing Bloom to be granted flex time or being allowed to take unpaid leave of absence to attend meetings of the Monongalia County Commission or to attend to other County Commission business during school hours while flexibility of schedule is inherent in the job duties as a school guidance counselor, according to the suit.

Bloom is seeking for the Court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining and enjoining the defendants from interfering with the right of Bloom to attend meetings and other business with the County Commission; order the defendants to grant him an unpaid leave of absence for the time spent away from MHS during school hours; enter judgment in favor of Bloom against the defendants; and compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by William E. Ford III of Ford Law Office and Robert M. Bastress Jr.

Representing the defendants are Kenneth L. Hopper and Keith C. Gamble of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at

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