Marple alleges humiliation’ in letter to state
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Board of Education caused permanent damage to Jorea Marple's reputation when it fired her, she alleges in a letter state officials received Thursday.
The state Department of Education learned Marple planned to file a lawsuit Wednesday when it received a different letter. The first letter, dated Dec. 27, stated Marple planned to sue the department. The second, dated Dec. 28, clarified that intends to sue the board.
All that's important is that Board President Wade Linger gets the letter and knows there could be legal action, said Tim Barber, one of four attorneys representing the ousted superintendent.
The board voted to fire Marple during a Nov. 15 meeting. Her letter alleges that action was illegal, and she is seeking several forms of relief. She wants her job back; a formal finding by the board that it fired her inappropriately; and money for wrongful termination.
"Further, she has suffered humiliation and anguish as a direct proximate result of the termination," the letter states. "Her right to enjoy life free from the unfounded action by the board has been impaired, and she has been severely inconvenienced in her life."
Two weeks after she was fired, Marple said she remained stunned at the board's decision. She said she could think of nothing else.
". . . I'm trying to work on basic things like being able to eat and sleep again," she told the Daily Mail in November.
Barber said Thursday he met with Marple before sending the letters, but he declined to comment on her well-being. Marple has not returned calls since the November interview.
If the board doesn't reinstate her, Marple wants it to present "competent, admissible evidence" of something she did that warranted her termination, the letter states.
Barber said the relief mentioned in the letter "is on a very short leash" but he would be more than willing to meet with board attorneys.
Victor Flanagan is one of the attorneys representing the board. He said Thursday he and the board had not decided whether they would meet with Marple's attorneys or how they would respond to the letter. He said a meeting was possible.
Barber declined to comment further on the letter's contents, saying it spoke for itself. Flanagan said it was impossible for him speculate on some of the claims.
Marple's employment status was not listed on the agenda for the Nov. 15 meeting when she was originally fired; an addition to the personnel portion of the meeting was passed out moments before the vote.
Charleston-based public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court alleging the board knowingly violated the Open Meetings Act with its vote. It wants the court to reinstate Marple.
Flanagan is also representing the board in that case. He and board members have repeatedly said the board did not violate any laws. The board called another meeting two weeks later to discuss the matter further. At that meeting, board members voted to fire Marple again.
At that meeting, Linger made several comments as to why he thought Marple should be fired. The state superintendent is a "will and pleasure" employee; Linger and other board members have said that means the board can remove the superintendent whenever it chooses.
If any of the board's actions at the Nov. 15 meeting were perceived to have violated any laws, the next meeting corrected those problems, according to a letter Flanagan filed on the board's behalf with the state Supreme Court.
The high court is back in session next week, and the matter is supposed to be on its agenda, Flanagan said.
Department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said Wednesday the department was aware of Marple's intent to sue but would not comment on the matter until a complaint has been filed. Marple's replacement, Jim Phares, took the oath of office Wednesday morning.
To sue a state entity, a person must give 30 days' notice to the head of that entity and the attorney general, according to state law. Marple's letter was addressed to Linger and Darrell McGraw, outgoing state attorney general and Marple's husband.
The two parties can discuss the allegations during the 30-day window, Barber said.
"That's very, very, very common. It's uncommon not to have that," Barber said Thursday in a phone interview. "I would be surprised if we don't have some interaction in this 30-day time period."
The 30 days began Dec. 28, which means a lawsuit could be filed as early as Jan. 28. Barber said any lawsuit would be filed in Kanawha Circuit Court.