CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Board of Education fired state schools Superintendent Jorea Marple illegally and against the advice of its own attorney, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.
The emergency petition wants the state Supreme Court to reverse Marple's abrupt termination. Charleston-based public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed the action Wednesday morning at the state Supreme Court.
It seeks to temporarily return Marple to her job. The education board fired her last Thursday in a 5-2 vote.
The lawsuit alleges members of the board plotted in secret prior to last week's meeting. The decision was "predetermined in back-room, secret meetings among certain Board members in clear violation" of the state's open meeting laws.
It is not clear what forms the basis of these assertions.
The lawsuit also alleges board President Wade Linger went ahead with the "ambush termination" of Marple against the advice of his own legal counsel, a reference to Department of Education General Counsel Heather Deskins.
"Advised by counsel that the board should not take official action without proper notice of the meeting, the Board President (Linger) responded that he would take his chances," the lawsuit alleges.
Linger declined to comment Wednesday morning on the specific allegation. He said he had been advised by counsel not to comment on a specific lawsuit in progress.
"I've been advised by counsel - that's all I'm going to say," Linger said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Supreme Court ordered the Board of Education to respond to the lawsuit by Nov. 30.
The point of the lawsuit may be moot by then: The board is meeting on Nov. 29 to re-fire Marple. That redo is an apparent concession the board was on shaky legal ground the first time it fired her. Presumably, the board will seek to comply with open meetings laws when it acts this time.
The decision to fire Marple was not listed on last week's meeting agenda, and Marple said she had no idea she was going to be fired until moments before the vote.