Hearing appealing termination of former Manatee High assistant principal concludes

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 26, 2014 

Former Manatee High administrator Matthew Kane, right, looks towards the back of the courtroom as he stands with attorney Brett McIntosh as Judge Peter Dubensky enters the courtroom to give his verdict on Wednesday June 18, 2014 at the Manatee County Judicial Center. This was the third day of the trial of three Manatee High administrators at the Manatee County Judicial Center. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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MANATEE -- Matthew Kane, found not guilty in a criminal case last week for failure to report child abuse, finished an administrative hearing Wednesday in an attempt to resume his school district job.

Testimony concluded in his appeal of the Manatee County School Board decision to terminate him in connection with the Roderick Frazier scandal and now Kane must await a state determination on whether he can reclaim his job.

District officials said Kane did not properly handle allegations Frazier, a former football assistant coach and parent liaison, inappropriately touched students.

Frazier has since pleaded no contest to four counts of battery and two counts of interference with student attendance.

Kane, along with former Manatee High Principal Robert Gagnon and former assistant principal Gregg Faller, were all placed on unpaid leave pending termination last October when the Manatee County School Board decided all three violated district policy in handling the allegations.

A three-day trial last week resulted in Kane and Gagnon being found not guilty of one misdemeanor count of fail

ing to report child abuse and one felony count of failing to report child abuse.

Faller was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse but cleared of the felony count of failing to report child abuse.

Investigators claimed Kane, Gagnon and Faller were aware of allegations of abuse and failed to report them to the state child abuse hotline as legally required. All three are now awaiting decisions from the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings.

Once the judge issues a recommended order, the school board will vote on whether to accept the recommendation.

Kane's lawyers called three witnesses Wednesday morning.

Manatee High parent liaison Randy Smith testified he never saw any inappropriate behavior by Frazier and he, too, often rode in golf carts with female students -- an issue anonymously reported to the district Office of Professional Standards. The anonymous complaint said: "It didn't look right."

"At lunchtime it was almost like a magnet. Students would come and sit down," Smith said.

During cross-examination, Smith confirmed he didn't see everything that went on at the school.

Bradenton Police detective Fredy Ordonez testified a mother of a former student never came to him with concerns about her daughter being told to stop making false allegations when she reportedly overheard Frazier and another student discussing a lingerie party. Ordonez was a school resource officer at Manatee High at the time.

"The only incident I recall is when she came into the school irate," Ordonez said. "I was called in just to monitor her behavior. She was upset that her daughter was going to be placed at another school."

Ordonez said he never observed any inappropriate behavior by Frazier nor had anyone else ever brought any concerns about Frazier to him.

School board attorney Terry Harmon questioned how often he was at Manatee High.

"For the most part I was there in the morning," Ordonez said.

Bradenton Police school resource officer Danny Bench testified he was not there at time of the incident, contradicting testimony by parent liaison Stephen Gulash.

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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