BRADENTON -- Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber is fighting a court order to provide information designed to help the Manatee County School District defend a lawsuit filed by former employee Robert Gagnon and his wife, Melissa, an assistant principal in the district.
In a 13-page motion filed in May, Barber and Florida Education Association attorney Peter Caldwell argue the document the district is looking for is not an affidavit and the information was given to Barber in confidence and should not be made public.
On May 14, the district filed a summons for Barber to produce all communications she received since January 2012 concerning the Gagnons. After conferring with Fred Moore, school district counsel, Barber said she found out the district is looking for a specific affidavit provided
by a teacher, according to her motion. Barber's motion said she is aware of the document the district wants but it is not an affidavit and is no longer in her possession or control.
"Any union member has reason to believe that his/her confidential statement to the union president is privileged and not subject to disclosure to anyone, especially not to his/her employer, the school board defendant," the motion reads.
Barber is seeking an order quashing the district motion or an order to limit the scope of the summons. A judge has not yet ruled on Barber's motion.
A hearing is set for June 27 under Circuit Judge John Lakin will hear arguments from the district's lawyers as to why he should dismiss the Gagnon case. Gagnon and his wife filed the case in February before filing an amended complaint in March.
Gagnon's lawsuit claims a case of "physical and emotional molestation," saying the defendants worked to destroy Gagnon's name, character and well-being. The situation with Gagnon has also had an negative effect on the relationship between Gagnon and his wife, Melissa, the suit states.
Lawyers for the school district want the case dismissed because the suit fails to state a cause of action.
Gagnon's suit stems from the Roderick Frazier child-abuse case, in which, ultimately, Gagnon was acquitted of one felony count and one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse. Gagnon was also cleared by an administrative judge, who said the district failed to show enough evidence Gagnon had violated any law, rule or school board policy.
The board has since reimbursed Gagnon for back pay and legal fees. The district did not renew Gagnon's contract.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.