CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A public interest group filed a lawsuit Wednesday with the state Supreme Court alleging that the state Board of Education violated open government laws by firing Superintendent Jorea Marple.
The suit, an emergency petition for writ of mandamus filed by Mountain State Justice Inc., asks the justices to declare the board's decision to fire Marple last week invalid and block the members from appointing a new superintendent.
The suit was filed on behalf James and Michelle Hicks of Foster, whose child is a fourth-grader.
Among other claims, the suit alleges that the school board violated the state Open Governmental Proceedings Act by failing to list any discussion of Marple's firing on the agenda for the Nov. 15 meeting where the board voted 5-2 to fire her.
"Had the Petitioners and other citizens been notified and aware of certain board members intentions to act on the Superintendent's position, they and other citizens would have wanted to attend the meeting," the lawsuit states.
During the meeting, the board members moved to executive session, and board President Wade Linger told Marple that she was not needed for the discussion. During a break in the session, Linger confronted Marple and told her that the board had lost confidence in her and would make a motion to remove her from her post, the lawsuit states.
"It was apparent that the decision to terminate the superintendent was predetermined through discussions between board members outside the context of regularly scheduled and convened meetings," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that the state school board "has a history of violating the principles of open government." As an example, it claims that at an Oct. 15, 2012, meeting, Linger told the board's secretary to stop all recordings of the meeting. Other board members didn't know about Linger's action, and he did it against legal advice, according to the lawsuit.
Marple's abrupt termination has been the center of controversy since it happened. The two school board members who voted against her firing, Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips, have said they will resign from the board.
State school board members had originally planned to discuss Marple's replacement at a board meeting Wednesday. At the meeting where Marple was fired, Linger said he would recommend Randolph County Schools Superintendent Jim Phares to replace her.
But on Monday, a Department of Education spokeswoman said any discussion of Marple's replacement would be postponed, so board members could concentrate on their response to the recent education audit.
Then, on Tuesday, Linger announced that the board would hold a special meeting Nov. 29 to reconsider Marple's firing -- apparently in an attempt to make sure the state's open meetings laws are followed.
Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Tay...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.