Former school employee appeals wrongful termination

By Ryan Ottney

August 3, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Attorneys met before Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Howard Harcha III on Wednesday in a bench trial to appeal the wrongful termination case of a Green School employee that occurred last year.

Former maintenance worker Curtis Tackett had been employed at Green Local School for nearly 20 years, according to his attorney Richard Wolfson. His employment was terminated May 31, 2012, and he filed a wrongful termination suit against the school in April. The suit against the school asks for the pay Tackett lost from hours of work and accrued vacation he was denied, as well as additional damages for emotional distress caused to him and his wife, Wolfson said, and punitive damages.

Attorneys for Tackett and the Green Local School District met for a bench trial before Judge Harcha on Wednesday.

“Yesterday there was a bench trial that was limited to the issue of whether or not the school board’s decision to terminate (Tackett’s) employment would be affirmed or overruled. Yesterday’s trial did not involve any issues of damages or anything other than whether or not the decision would be affirmed or overruled,” said Attorney Tim Pepper, representing Green Local School District.

He said the trail took most of the day on Wednesday and testimonies from school board members were heard as well as testimonies from the superintendent and former school treasurer.

“Mr. Tackett invoked his right under the Fifth Amendment not to testify on the grounds that it might incriminate him,” Pepper said.

Tackett’s attorney, Richard Wolfson, said his client did not testify because there is an pending criminal case stemming from the school’s claim that Tackett stole property from the school.

“We are not dealing with the damages issue in the administrative appeal,” Wolfson said. “What’s interesting about this case in the administrative appeal; this is my client, Mr. Tackett’s, first opportunity to have a hearing on the issue of his termination. The school board voted to terminate, and our position is that Mr. Tackett has never presented his case, or was able to cross examine witnesses or question witnesses or have witnesses presented on his own behalf, prior to the termination. That’s one of the issues of the administrative appeal.”

He said Tackett was supposed to be given a hearing before the school board within 10 days of his termination, but was not given that chance.

“There’s a 10-day window of time. Well what if one is … so unfamiliar with the law and you don’t have an attorney to call and that 10-day window comes and goes and you’ve never had an opportunity to have a hearing,” Wolfson said.

He said the school board claims that pursuing the issue is satisfying Tackett’s right to a hearing.

Pepper said he expects the court to make a decision within 30 days to affirm or overrule Tackett’s termination from the school.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.