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Fired schools chief Jorea Marple to sue state

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ousted state schools superintendent Jorea Marple plans to file a lawsuit over her recent termination.

Through an attorney, Marple informed the state Department of Education of her intent to sue, department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said. 

"We can confirm that the Board received a letter of intent regarding a lawsuit to be filed by former state Superintendent Jorea Marple," Cordeiro wrote in an email late Wednesday. "However, we have not received a complaint thus, it would be inappropriate to make a comment about the matter at this time."

Victor Flanagan, an attorney with Charleston-based law firm Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, said Wednesday he had seen the letter and would represent the board in any potential lawsuit. He thought the letter was dated Dec. 27 or 28, but he did not receive it until Wednesday. 

Flanagan said he believes Marple and her representation will change the letter to reflect that she plans to sue the state Board of Education, not the department of education. 

Before anyone can file a lawsuit against a state agency it needs to give 30 days notice, Flanagan said. The lawsuit can come any time after that 30-day period.

"Since we don't have a complaint or anything, we don't know what the allegations are, it's hard for me to comment," Flanagan said Wednesday evening.

Board members voted to fire Marple on Nov. 15. The move came as a surprise to Marple and others in the education community, leading to calls for transparency and allegations of illegal action.

Shortly after that meeting, Charleston-based public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court on behalf of two Boone County parents. The filing alleges the board knowingly violated the Open Meetings act by discussing firing Marple without listing the item on the meeting agenda.

Flanagan is also representing the board in that lawsuit. He previously told the Daily Mail the board does not believe it took an illegal action, but it remedied any perceived misdeeds by holding another meeting to discuss Marple's firing.

In a Nov. 29 meeting, the board voted again to fire Marple. A 2005 opinion of the state Ethics Commission provides public agencies the ability to rectify any potential Open Meetings Act violations by conducting the same measure in an additional meeting. That meeting must not be perfunctory or ceremonial, according to the opinion.

Jim Phares was officially sworn in as the new state superintendent Wednesday morning. Formerly the superintendent of schools in Randolph County, Phares' name was mentioned as a possible replacement for Marple the same day she was fired.

Flanagan said Wednesday night attorney Tim Barber is representing Marple. Messages left with Barber and Marple were not immediately returned.

@tagline: Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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