Manatee School Board suspends 3 employees in Frazier probe without pay; 2 others exit

eearl@bradenton.comOctober 14, 2013 

MANATEE — The Manatee County School Board voted unanimously Monday night to suspend without pay: • Bob Gagnon, former Manatee High principal and assistant superintendent on special assignment; and • Greg Faller and Matthew Kane, former assistant principals.

The decision follows the district’s internal investigation surrounding Manatee High assistant football coach Rod Frazier.

Gagnon, Kane, Faller and Debra Horne, former investigator in the office of professional services, have been charged with failure to report child abuse — a felony charge.

Kane and Gagnon were also charged with provided false information to law enforcement.

Horne announced her retirement Monday.

Scott Martin, former school district staff attorney, resigned Monday. Steve Valley, school district spokesman, said the resignation and retirement are effective immediately.

While Martin faces no charges in the Frazier investigation, Superintendent Rick Mills recommended he also be suspended without pay and eventually terminated. Mills originally recommended all five employees be terminated. The school board cannot vote on that recommendation until the close of the window in which employees facing firing can request a hearing. They have 21 days from Oct. 4 when they were served with administrative complaints.

The first step in terminating Gagnon, Kane and Faller was to suspend them without pay. Until Monday, all five employees had been on paid administrative leave. John Weiffenbach, Faller’s attorney, said he could ask the board to reconsider suspending Faller without pay.

“He has a family to support,” Weiffenbach said. “It seems like the right thing to do would be to allow him to get paid until due process is complete.”

Terry Harmon of the district’s legal representation from Tallahassee, Sniffen & Spellman P.A., said the district investigation led by Troy Pumphrey was “exhaustive.”

“Based on the complaints, there is no reason for the board not to adopt the recommendation for suspension without pay,” Harmon said.

School board member Barbara Harvey said if an individual is cleared, missed pay from the suspension would be compensated. “They won’t lose financially,” Harvey said.

School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said there is an issue with “moral and ethical compasses” in the district.

“Do not let the actions of a small number overshadow the work of the majority of our employees,” Carpenter said.

Gagnon attorney Richard Reinhart said suspending his client without pay is based on political bias.

“With looking at how the case proceeded, it reminded of Salem witchcraft,” Reinhart said. “There were cries of outrage, but not one person came to him and told him of the abuse. It is only by inference upon inference that you can justify a duty to report.”

Brett McIntosh, Kane’s attorney, also defended his client’s character. “He doesn’t quit and he doesn’t give up,” McIntosh said. “He stands for what’s right. What is happening to Mr. Kane is not right.”

McIntosh called the 182-page district investigation report vague and the charges slanderous.

School board member Bob Gause said he strongly recommends everyone involved should read the district’s investigative report. “This is not a vote to agree with the charges,” Gause said. “It is a vote to suspend employees without pay.”

The district investigation included transcripts of interviews with employees it recommended for termination in connection with the Frazier case. The findings suggested administrative negligence and/or intentional misconduct.

Kane, Faller and Gagnon have until Oct. 25 to request a hearing. If no hearing is requested, the school board will vote on Mill’s recommendation to fire the employees at the regular 5:45 p.m. school board meeting Oct. 28.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081

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