Manatee Schools Superintendent Rick Mills dismisses complaint against former employee Robert Gagnon

mdelaney@bradenton.comJuly 4, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Manatee County School District Superintendent Rick Mills has dismissed the administrative complaint against Robert Gagnon after a criminal judge and administrative judge cleared the former school administrator of any wrongdoing in regard to the Roderick Frazier case.

Gagnon had been accused of failing to report Frazier's inappropriate behavior to the proper authorities.

"Based upon the criminal acquittal of Mr. Gagnon and this week's decision by the Administrative Law Judge, I am dismissing the Administrative Complaint against Robert Gagnon," Mills said in a statement released late Thursday evening. The district declined further comment.

Richard Reinhart, Gagnon's lawyer, said Thursday night he is pleased the district acted so swiftly.

"I'm very happy he has responded in that fashion," Reinhart said.

The next issue, Reinhart said, will be securing Gagnon's back pay and benefits, which have to be awarded by the Manatee County School Board.

Gagnon, a former assistant

superintendent and former principal at Manatee High School, has been fighting to be reinstated since the school board approved a suspension without pay in October in connection with his handling of allegations about Frazier, a former Manatee High School assistant football coach.

The recommended order, filed Monday by administrative law judge Lynne Quimby-Pennock, states the school district failed to show sufficient evidence Gagnon violated any law, 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 recommended Gagnon, also a former principal at Manatee High School, should be reinstated and awarded full back pay.

The next step will be for the school board to vote on whether to award Gagnon back pay and benefits from the time of his suspension without pay to the end of his contract, Reinhart said. Given the dismissal of the complaint by Mills, Reinhart said Gagnon should be awarded the money from the board.

"I can't see a lawful way to do without it," he said.

The agenda for the July 22 scheduled board meeting has not yet been created.

Gagnon's contract was not renewed by the district this year, and he became unemployed as of Tuesday. At a press conference earlier in the week, Gagnon and his lawyer said Gagnon would be willing to entertain the possibility of returning to work for the school district, even though his most recent position within the school district no longer exists.

The Gagnon family plans to stay in Manatee County, and Gagnon has said he plans to continue to work with children in some capacity. Reinhart said the superintendent's swift decision may help open employment opportunities for Gagnon sooner rather than later.

Gagnon did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Reinhart had filed paperwork with the district to have school board members Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter recuse themselves from voting on the recommended order because of statements they've made to the public about Gagnon and his case. Since the complaint was dismissed by Mills before the recommended order was brought to the board, Reinhart said those filings are most likely irrelevant now.

Prior to the administrative judge's recommended order, Gagnon was acquitted of criminal charges he failed to report allegations of child abuse by Frazier to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Suspended assistant principal Matthew Kane was also 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. The recommended orders in those cases have not been issued.

Frazier, who resigned from the district, pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of battery and three 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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