At its July 22 meeting, the Manatee County school board could have done the right thing. They failed miserably.
On the agenda was board approval of back pay owed to Bob Gagnon, former assistant superintendent, principal at Manatee High School, and a person of great integrity.
The district's shabby witch hunt against Gagnon collapsed when he was found not guilty of criminal charges and also found by an administrative law judge not to have violated district policies.
The witch hunt was sparked by Superintendent Rick Mills and his henchman, Troy Pumphrey. Pumphrey wrote a 181-page report that, despite its length, contained no proof of wrongdoing by Gagnon.
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The meeting should have been an opportunity for the board to apologize to Gagnon after unanimously suspending him without pay in February based on Pumphrey's flawed report. Instead, after pulling from the agenda an incredibly offensive proposal that would have expanded Pumphrey's power and given him a raise, they refused to own up to their mistake and offer an apology to Gagnon.
Their refusal was based on bad advice from district attorney Jim Dye, who told them an apology could affect the "pending" administrative proceedings concerning the two other staff members suspended with Gagnon.
When Robert Gause started to offer a sincere apology to Gagnon, Dye cut him off, warning of dire consequences.
Dye didn't tell the board that those administrative proceedings were concluded, the record closed, and all that remains is receipt of the decision.
Sixty years ago, Sen. Joe McCarthy engaged in an equally reprehensible witch hunt against a young lawyer. That lawyer's boss, Joseph Welch, challenged McCarthy with the words "Have you no sense of decency?" I asked the school board the same thing on July 22. Sadly, we have their answer.