BRADENTON - Part of another sordid chapter in the Manatee School District’s recent history was mostly (but not completely) closed on Monday.
During a regular meeting session, the school board unanimously voted to suspend without pay three administrative employees, who were associated with a sexual abuse scandal involving a now-former Manatee High School football coach and parent liaison, Roderick Frazier.
The three suspended employees named at the meeting were former MHS Principal and assistant superintendent Bob Gagnon, as well as assistant principals Gregg Faller and Matthew Kane.
Two others implicated in the investigation, former district staff attorney Scott Martin and former district internal investigator Debra Horne, submitted their resignations prior to the meeting, effectively removing their names from the list of employees to have suspensions voted on. Instead of receiving no pay, Martin and Horne will be now paid through November 2nd.
All five employees have been on paid administrative leave since August 1, while the district conducted an internal investigation into the matter, which came after the Bradenton Police Department recommended charges be brought against all but Martin.
Charges for Horne, Faller, Kane and Gagnon include failure to report to law enforcement (the latter three were also charged with lying to police) allegations raised by an unnamed former MHS student of unwanted sexual contact by Frazier.
During the meeting, legal representative for the district, Terry Harmon, advised the board that the reason for suspension without pay as opposed to outright termination is that the employees must be given a full 21 days after receiving notice of the administrative complaints against them, to request an administrative hearing before termination can be given.
Harmon also advised the board that district policy requires that the superintendent give at least seven days' notice of the pending suspension vote to the employee prior to the suspension vote.
"The next portion of the proceedings in a termination provision of the policy requires the superintendent to recommend to you as a board the suspension without pay of a particular employee pending the outcome of the administrative proceedings," Harmon said. He added that the employee shas 21 days to request an administrative hearing.
Harmon cited statute 2.21(c) from district policy as a reference to what he said were the legitimacy of the day's proceedings.
That claimed legitimacy of the district's process to suspend on Monday was challenged at the meeting by attorneys individually representing the three employees, one of whom (Mr. Gagnon's attorney) argued that the statute clearly stated that his client should have been given 21 days notice prior to Monday's meeting, and threatened the boarda wrongful termination lawsuit.
Another representative, for Mr. Kane, argued that the board was violating its own policy by not giving 21 days notice prior to the meeting.
Board members David Miner and Bob Gause sought assurance during the meeting and during a recess from Harmon that he was confident that the cited statute gave the board the authority to suspend without pay that day, to which Harmon confirmed.
The final determination on whether to terminate the named employees will take place at the October 28 school board meeting.