Testimony concluded in hearing for Manatee High ex-assistant principal

Herald Staff WritersJune 5, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Testimony concluded Wednesday in the administrative hearing for former Manatee High School assistant principal Gregg Faller.

Faller is appealing the Manatee County School District decision to place him on unpaid leave in October pending termination after criminal charges were filed against him in the Roderick Frazier case. The district must prove it had just cause in terminating Faller.

Frazier, in April, pleaded no contest to four counts of battery for inappropriately touching students, faculty or staff as well as two 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 said Faller, along with former Manatee High Principal Bob Gagnon and former assistant principal Matthew Kane, were all aware of the allegations but never reported them to the state child abuse hotline.

School district investigator Troy Pumphrey was the final witness called to the stand.

Pumphrey, who inherited the investigation when he took the job in 2013, was questioned about what conclusion he had reached on whether Faller violated board policies or rules. Pumphrey said yes, all those conclusions were in his report and he stood by the report.

On Tuesday, former Man

atee High School parent liaison Adinah Torres and Manatee High teacher Keltie O'Dell testified about incidents concerning Frazier they said they reported to Faller. Torres testified she reported Frazier inappropriately touched her leg during a training session. O'Dell testified she witnessed the exchange of text messages during her class between Frazier and a female student.

During testimony Wednesday, Faller said he did not address the issue Torres brought forth with Frazier because she did not file a complaint in writing, and she told him she had already handled it.

Faller said he told parent liaisons sending text messages to students should call them to their offices in a group meeting with all parent liaisons. He testified he could not remember if he addressed the situation specifically with Frazier.

"Did I or didn't I? I really couldn't recall if I specifically addressed that with Mr. Frazier," Faller said.

Jacqueline Peebles, a Manatee High School teacher, testified Wednesday after Faller, about incidents she witnessed and said she reported to Faller.

Peebles reported seeing a student eating cake in Frazier's office. She also testified she brought issues with Frazier sending inappropriate text messages students to Faller.

Peebles testified Faller told her he would take care of it.

"That's what I wanted. I wanted someone in charge to move forward," she testified.

Testimony concluded with Faller's lawyer calling Bradenton school resource officer Danny Bench.

Bench was questioned about students driving around in golf carts with parent liaisons and Frazier in particular. He testified it was common for students and others to ride in golf carts with liaisons and school resource officers and he never saw anything unusual about it.

"He was very firm and fair," Bench said. "I didn't see him show any favoritism toward anybody."

Attorneys have 20 days once transcripts from the hearing are received to submit recommended orders, including closing arguments.

Gagnon and Kane have also appealed their terminations.

Gagnon's hearing went on for three days in April. The case is in abeyance -- making it inactive -- until a final hearing can be scheduled, according to Florida Division of Administrative Hearing website.

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 in Sarasota.

Faller, Kane and Gagnon will stand trial starting June 16 in their pending criminal cases. The three of them each 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.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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