High court won’t hear Marple firing lawsuit
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Supreme Court declined to discuss a case alleging the West Virginia Board of Education violated open meetings laws when it fired Jorea Marple as superintendent.
Victor Flanagan, an attorney representing the board, said Tuesday he received an order Monday from the court. The order declined to hear a motion asking it to reinstate Marple to her position and investigate allegations concerning the Open Meetings Act.
"Basically, what the court did was refuse the (request) and left open the avenue if the petitioner wanted to file in circuit court," Flanagan said.
On Nov. 15, the board voted to fire Marple, a move that caught many members of the education community off guard. The subject was not listed on the agenda of the meeting, quickly leading to calls for more transparency and allegations of illegal actions.
Less than a week later the Charleston-based public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court. Filed on behalf of the parents of a Boone County student, the lawsuit alleges the board secretly plotted to oust Marple "in clear violation" of the open meetings laws.
Flanagan said Mountain State Justice's case was filed under "emergency" status, something that he considered a little unusual. He said it was more common for a case of this nature to be filed with the circuit court; if either party was unsatisfied with that court's decision, it could then appeal to the Supreme Court, he said.
The Supreme Court's order does not mention the merits of the allegations raised by Mountain State Justice. It states the court received the documents from the law firm on Nov. 22, the board's response Nov. 30 and an additional document the same day.
Board members and Flanagan have denied any wrongdoing. If anyone believes the board violated any open meetings laws, the additional meeting the board called — where it fired Marple again — should clear up those concerns, Flanagan has told the Daily Mail.
The additional document filed by Mountain State Justice alluded to Marple being fired in connection to board or state Department of Education contracts. The court's order does not mention any of these allegations.
Board President Wade Linger said Tuesday he had seen the court order.
"We're just respectful of what the Supreme Court has said," Linger said in a phone interview. "Obviously we read positive things into that, but it's up to the other side as to how they read it."
Bren Pomponio, an attorney with Mountain State Justice, said he had also received a copy of the order. The law firm has not decided how it will proceed with the case, he said. He declined further comment.
Even if the law firm decides to drop the open meetings allegations, the board is not necessarily out of the woods when it comes to legal actions concerning Marple.
Attorneys representing Marple recently sent a notice to the board and state Attorney's General Office announcing her intention to sue the board for wrongful termination. That lawsuit could be filed as soon as Jan. 28.