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Ryal superintendent wins court hearing over suspension

by Andrew Knittle Modified: March 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm •  Published: March 29, 2013

EUFAULA — The superintendent of tiny Ryal Public Schools is suing the district and three board members, claiming the school board took action him during a “sham” meeting that grossly violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

Scot Trower, who had headed up the district since 2011, asked a court to give him a fair hearing, claiming the one that resulted in his recent suspension – with pay – was biased and unfair.

A McIntosh County judge granted Trower's request Tuesday. The administrator will have a hearing April 9 before the judge.

Trower was suspended after comments he made to The Oklahoman for a story that ran in February angered many of the community's residents. In the article, the superintendent described the district's students as children of poverty — some of them fourth-generation.

The lawsuit filed by Trower's attorney accuses three board members of stifling the former administrator's free speech by moving forward with efforts to terminate his contract.

Board members Robert Bennett, Jason Harjo and Michael Winap are named in the lawsuit.

Richard O'Carroll, an attorney representing Trower, wrote in the suit that Bennett and Harjo appointed Winap to a seat on the board as an angry crowd demanded action during the district's regularly scheduled March meeting.

O'Carroll wrote in the suit that Bennett and Harjo were “intimidated” by some school district patrons attending the March 4 meeting and named Winap as a board member even though Winap “had been very outspoken against Mr. Trower and had called for his resignation.”

“The same evening, these three people immediately met in an unscheduled executive session where they discussed Mr. Trower's employment,” the attorney wrote. “At that time, it was determined that Mr. Trower should be terminated from the school district.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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