Testimony set to conclude as Manatee school district tries to justify termination of Manatee High administrator

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 4, 2014 

MANATEE -- Testimony is set to conclude Wednesday in the administrative hearing in which the Manatee County School District is attempting to defend its decision to terminate former Manatee High assistant principal Gregg Faller as a result of the Roderick Frazier case.

Faller is appealing the Manatee County District School Board decision in October to place him on unpaid leave pending termination after criminal charges were filed against him in connection with Frazier case.

Frazier pleaded no contest in April to three counts of battery for inappropriately touching students, faculty or staff as well as three counts of interfering with attendance of a student. In exchange for the plea deal, the state agreed to drop three counts of battery and one count of interference.

Investigators say Faller, along with former Manatee High principal Robert Gagnon and former assistant principal Matthew Kane, were all aware of the allegations but never reported them to the state child abuse hotline.

Former Manatee High School parent liaison Adinah Torres testified Tuesday about how she reported inappropriate behavior by Frazier toward her to Faller.

Torres said she went to Faller after Frazier inappropriately touched her during a training session.

"I can't have any problems between you guys and you want someone to come when you have a problem with the kids," Torres said Faller told her. "Then he told me: 'You got this?' And I said I got this."

Torres filed a lawsuit May 1 claiming she was retaliated against after reporting Frazier's inappropriate behavior. She also was one of the victims in the criminal case against him.

Manatee High teacher Keltie O'Dell also testified she reported inappropriate behavior to Faller.

O'Dell said she witnessed text messages exchanged during her class between Frazier and a female student. O'Dell said there had been another instance prior in which Frazier brought the same student her lunch, along with her change, to her classroom. She said he did it so the student would not to get in trouble for being in the cafeteria in violation of dress code.

"I didn't say anything, shame on me, but after this incident, the texting, I thought (Faller) should know what was happening," O'Dell said. "He said he would take care of it. I don't know if he did."

During cross-examination, O'Dell was questioned by the defense attorney about how her relationship with Frazier -- once friendly having gone to high school together -- changed after she reported concerns to Faller.

"He wasn't speaking to me anymore," O'Dell said. "Eventually he did speak to me again but it wasn't the same."

Faller is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday as well as school district investigator Troy Pumphrey and Manatee High teacher Jacqueline Peebles. Testimony is expected to conclude early Wednesday afternoon.

Gagnon and Kane have also appealed their termination.

Gagnon's hearing went on for three days in April. The case has been placed in abeyance -- making it inactive -- until a final hearing can be scheduled.

Attorneys have until July 11 to provide a list of available dates.

Kane's hearing was also held in April but was not concluded in the two scheduled days. It was continued to 9:30 a.m. June 24 via video conference.

Faller, Kane and Gagnon are set to stand trial starting June 16 in the criminal cases against them.

All three face one felony count of failing to report allegations of child abuse to a state hotline and one misdemeanor count of failing to report. A third charge against the three for lying to police was dropped by the State Attorney's Office.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitternote>

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