Education board OKs negotiations in wrongful termination suit

A former assistant state superintendent says that he was wrongfully terminated from the Education Department.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: January 27, 2012
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Board OKs lawsuit negotiations

The state Education Board voted Thursday to move toward settling a wrongful termination lawsuit that was filed against the education department in July.

Jack Herron, a former assistant state superintendent of finance, was one of two employees fired from the state Education Department on May 9, shortly after state Superintendent Janet Barresi was given authority over staffing in the department.

Herron held a news conference after he was fired, expressing his concern for the direction the state department is headed under Barresi. He now asks the court to determine whether Barresi had the authority to fire him. He said the 3-1 vote by the state Education Board was not a valid majority of the seven member board and thus Barresi did not have the authority to fire him without board approval.

“To date, there has been significant controversy created by the May 9, 2011, board meeting. Jumping the gun ... and transferring administrative powers from the board to the superintendent has had a devastating effect on our client,” Herron's attorney wrote to the state department before the lawsuit was filed.

Lisa Enders, legal counsel for the state, wrote in her legal response that the vote was a legitimate majority of the five board members present, with Barresi abstaining because no tie breaker was needed.

The board voted Thursday after returning from executive session to “direct counsel to request mediation and grant settlement authority to counsel.”

MEGAN ROLLAND, Staff Writer