CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple is suing the West Virginia Board of Education and demanding a hearing to confront its members over her termination in November, claiming that her firing was unlawful and "contrived in secret."
The actions of the state-governed board violated Marple's rights and caused her to suffer irreparable damage to her reputation and ability to gain future employment, in addition to mental anguish, according to a complaint filed by Charleston attorney Tim Barber in Kanawha County Circuit Court Friday afternoon.
Attorneys Patrick Maroney and Andrew MacQueen III also are representing Marple in the case.
The lawsuit claims that state board President Wade Linger began an agenda nine months before Marple was fired to replace her and contacted various board members about the plan. None of those efforts were revealed to Marple, the full membership of the board or the public, as required by law, according to the complaint.
The board's actions were "willful, wanton, and in reckless disregard" of Marple's rights, the lawsuit claims.
The U.S. and West Virginia constitutions protect citizens against state action that affects their liberty or property interests. Although Marple served at the "will and pleasure" of the board, she had liberty and property interests in her employment as state superintendent, and has a right to due process of law, according to the complaint.
During a regular board meeting Nov. 15, 2012, the board spent more than an hour -- without Marple -- in private session and then returned with one amendment to the agenda. A motion to end her employment immediately, which was approved 5-2.
The board later revisited that process, and officially placed Marple's termination on a later agenda and opened it up to the public for discussion. That was an attempt to remedy any violations of the Open Meetings Law that might have occurred during the first meeting.
"[Marple] was never provided an opportunity to digest whatever the 'new direction' was and offer to facilitate it or refuse to do so," the lawsuit states. "Instead, she was summarily dismissed with less than 24 hours notice, irrevocably staining a brilliant career in education of over three decades."
Linger and board members Gayle Manchin, Robert Dunlevy, William White, Michael Green and Lloyd Jackson voted to terminate Marple. Members Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips voted against firing her and resigned from the board the same day Marple was terminated.