School district investigation reveals 'incompetence, immorality' in Frazier case

Manatee school district releases investigation findings on employees recommended for termination

twhitt@bradenton.comOctober 6, 2013 

MANATEE -- The school district released its 182-page-investigation, including transcripts of interviews with employees it recommended for termination in connection with the Rod Frazier case.

The employees recommended for termination -- Bob Gagnon, former principal of Manatee High School and assistant superintendent; former Manatee High assistant principals Gregg Faller and Matthew Kane; and Debra Horne, former investigator for the office of professional standards and assistant principal of Prine Elementary -- have been on paid leave since charges were leveled against them. Scott Martin, staff attorney and former assistant superintendent of operations, who has not been charged in the case, also received a recommendation to be fired.

Horne, Faller, Gagnon and Kane are charged with failure to report suspected child abuse -- a felony. Kane and Gagnon are also charged with providing false reports to law enforcement. Frazier, who worked at Manatee High School as a parent liaison, was charged with seven midemeanor charges, including four counts of misdemeanor battery and three counts of school interference, also misdemeanors, for what prosecutors say was improper contact with students and staff.

Attorneys for Horne and Kane have said they will fight their termination.

According to the school district's findings released Saturday morning, Troy Pumphrey, the investigator for the school district's office of professional standards, suggested administrative negligence and/or intentional misconduct. His investigation was broadened to determine whether district administrators had prior knowledge of complaints by female students and faculty regarding inappropriate conduct involving Frazier and, if so, why the complaints were not addressed in a timely fashion.

Pumphrey found that Gagnon, Horne, Faller and Kane were "apprised of prior alleged, inappropriate incidents involving Frazier and female students yet he did nothing to intervene. Gagnon's actions and inactions allowed Frazier to remain at MHS and place the safety and well-being of students at risk."

In addition, Pumphrey found Gagnon "intentionally provided false and/or misleading information during the course of the investigations involving Frazier and was not forthcoming with information regarding serious allegations involving the health, safety, and welfare of students." Pumphrey said Gagnon was motivated by his desire "that Frazier be afforded the opportunity to coach in an upcoming high school football playoff game involving Manatee High."

According to the administrative complaint, Superintendent Rick Mills issued a letter of concern to Gagnon after learning Gagnon entered Manatee High on April 25 and spoke to Stephen Gulash, a parent liaison and assistant coach who worked with Frazier and who was involved in the criminal and administrative investigations involving Frazier. Mills told Gagnon to avoid interaction with any personnel at Manatee High.

The administrative complaint also includes that a Bradenton Police Department investigation into Frazier included the confiscation of his school-issued computer. "Numerous pornographic images depicting former students and potentially underage females were discovered on Frazier's school-issued computer," according to the administrative complaint, but Frazier, who resigned from the district in July, was never charged in connection with the images.

According to the administrative complaint, Pumphrey's findings reflect that all of the employees to be terminated demonstrated "a profound inability" to carry out their professional responsibilities and obligations to students in the district and that they "demonstrated immorality, misconduct in office, incompetence, gross insubordination, and willful neglect of duty."

Even though school district attorney Martin was not charged criminally in connection with the Frazier case, he was recommended for termination after the investigation concluded he, as Horne's direct supervisor, "failed to ensure a thorough and complete investigation was conducted by Horne. Based on the information that was available to Martin, he could have acted with more diligence, urgency and active oversight, particularly considering the serious allegations involving the health, safety, and welfare of students."

The investigation also found "Martin's actions and inactions demonstrated deliberate indifference" and allowed Frazier to remain at Manatee High and "place the safety and well being of students at risk. Martin further allowed the influence of others to taint Horne's MHS Investigation and impair his judgment and decision making."

All of the employees who were recommended for termination based on the findings are given 21 days to ask for a hearing to present their own cases.

Toni Whitt, Business/Education Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7087.

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