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Tellone retired but still in cases
Fired principal Michael Ransaw's suits entangle many.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published August 10, 2007
[Kathleen Flynn | Times]
Michael Ransaw listens to testimony from Morgan Thompson, an investigator with the department of education during a trial before the school board at board chambers. The board will decide whether the suspended Powell Middle School Principal should be fired from his position.
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
Wendy Tellone, Assistant Superintendent for Hernando schools.
BROOKSVILLE - She's not superintendent of schools any more, but at least one problem from her old job has followed Wendy Tellone into retirement.
There are still two lawsuits pending in the Hernando County School Board's long-running court battle with fired principal Michael Ransaw. Last week the board unanimously approved the appointment of its former attorney, Karen Gaffney, to represent Tellone's individual legal interests in the cases.
Ransaw, 38, was suspended in 2004 from his job as principal of Powell Middle School, after Tellone learned that he failed to disclose pawning a laptop computer and being demoted while working as an assistant principal in Broward County.
The School Board fired him in 2006 after an administrative law judge found him guilty of misconduct and gross insubordination, and last December the state Department of Education stripped him of his teaching and administrative certification.
Judges dismissed retaliatory federal and state lawsuits by Ransaw that named Tellone, the School Board and its individual members from 2006 as defendants. But Ransaw in January filed a new federal suit and has filed papers to revive the state case, said board attorney J. Paul Carland.
Carland said the board's litigation counsel, hired by its insurance company, has asked both courts to dismiss the suits and impose sanctions against Ransaw and his attorney.
But if a judge were to allow Tellone to be named as an individual defendant in either case, he said, the litigation counsel could not defend both her and the board and it would be "extremely expensive" to bring another lawyer up to speed at that point.
Carland recommended that the board retain Gaffney, who prosecuted the district's case against Ransaw in 2004 and 2005, to monitor Tellone's interests in the case. He suggested authorizing expenditures of up to $5,000 from his budget for that purpose, with the possibility of further costs if the suits continue.
"Previous state and federal courts ruled it was improper to name Tellone as an individual defendant," Carland said. "We anticipate that the case should be dismissed shortly."
Under state law, school boards are authorized to pay legal costs to defend employees against lawsuits in connection with their tenure, and could face liability for failing to do so, Carland said.