Administrative law judge rules in favor of ex-Manatee High principal Robert Gagnon; school board will have final say

mdelaney@bradenton.comJune 30, 2014 

Bob Gagnon, center, and his wife Melissa, right, leave courtroom 5A inside the Manatee County Judicial Center on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, after the former Manatee High School principal was acquitted on charges that he failed to notify the state of reports of abuse by former Manatee High School assistant football coach Rod Frazier. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- An administrative law judge has recommended Robert Gagnon, suspended assistant superintendent for the Manatee County School District, not be fired for his involvement in the Roderick Frazier scandal.

The Manatee School Board will have the final say.

Superintendent Rick Mills released the following statement in response to the recommended order Monday from Administrative Law Judge Lynne Quimby-Pennock: "We are in receipt of the decision of the Administrative Law Judge and we are in the process of reviewing it to determine what further course of action should be taken on behalf of the school district."

The judge said the school district failed to show sufficient evidence Gagnon, also a former Manatee High School principal, violated any specific statute, rule or school board policy.

"There was no direct, non-hearsay evidence that Respondent knowingly failed to perform his duties as principal or assistant superintendent in the appropriate manner," the recommended order reads.

The order states Gagnon should be reinstated and awarded full back pay.

The school board will vote on whether to accept the recommendation.

School Board Chairwom

an Julie Aranibar said she had not yet seen the recommended order and had no comment. Aranibar said no meeting has been scheduled yet to discuss and act upon the recommended order.

Gagnon attorney Richard Reinhart will hold a press conference at noon Tuesday to talk about the ruling. He said the judge made the correct decision.

"This is the decision we've been going for all along," he said.

Gagnon's biannual contract with the school board was not reviewed this year, Reinhart noted, and there is no job available for Gagnon at this time. Reinhart said Gagnon has not decided whether he wants to return to working with the district.

Reinhart also said he filed paperwork with the district to have Aranibar and school board member Karen Carpenter recuse themselves from voting on the recommended order because of statements they've made to the public about Gagnon and his case.

Aranibar had no comment on Reinhart's request. Carpenter could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Gagnon was acquitted earlier this month of criminal charges he failed to report allegations of child abuse by Frazier, a former assistant football coach at Manatee High, to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Suspended assistant principal Matthew Kane was acquitted of identical charges.

Another suspended assistant principal, Gregg Faller, was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of not reporting child abuse and sentenced to one day of probation.

Kane and Faller are also trying to get their jobs back with the district. Recommended orders in those administrative hearings have not yet been issued.

Frazier, who resigned from the district, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor counts of battery and two misdemeanor counts of interfering with school attendance. He was sentenced to three years probation, including six months house arrest.

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

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