First Posted: 7/2/2013
On June 25, 2013, I reached a legal settlement with the Pittston Area School Board over my removal as Pittston Area’s representative to the board of the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 (LIU). I felt that the ensuing press coverage had been fair to all parties until I read the editorial in the Sunday Dispatch of June 30, 2013. It was like reading something I would have expected from a one-sided, poorly written, local political blog.
Please allow me to provide some of the background and details of the case that were not mentioned in your editorial. It was June 2011 when I was appointed to a three-year term as the Pittston Area representative to the LIU. In August of that same year, a fellow board member, who had voted for me for the position, asked me to support a certain candidate for a teaching position. I said I could not commit to anyone as we had not yet interviewed and we had to follow our hiring policy. That same board member said, “#@&^ the policy, I am asking for a favor.” Following the interviews, I did not support the candidate as asked and voted for who I felt would do the best job.
As you note in your article, allegiances changed. Do not trivialize the reasons behind my ultimate lawsuit. There is a little more to it. In September 2011, three months into my term, that same board member who asked for the favor, voted to remove me as LIU representative and appoint Tony Guariglia to my seat. Before Mr. Guariglia was appointed to the LIU seat, though, he resigned as Pittston’s representative to the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center (Vo-Tech) Board of Directors. In November 2011, Mr. Guariglia was then appointed to an unbudgeted vice-principal position at the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center. His starting salary was, ironically, $75,000 per year plus benefits. As you say, my settlement will cost the taxpayers. So will his salary. None of this was ever reported in your paper. Not deserving of an editorial, I guess. These types of actions by public officials must be tolerable to your editorial board, but not to me.
You say in your article that you applaud me for being “a thorn in the side of the current majority” and bringing issues to light. I don’t look at it as being a thorn. I look at it as doing the job I was elected to do. I have spent the last eight years fighting for the students and the citizens of Pittston Area. That is what I did here, too. I fought. I was wrongfully removed from the LIU board. A federal judge ruled in favor of me on four of five counts following a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of the five defendants who voted to replace me on the LIU board. That judge ruled the case had merit and could go to trial. If your constitutional rights are infringed upon in the United States, what do you do? You get a lawyer.
My lawyer wrote a letter to the Pittston Area Board of Education in the fall of 2011, demanding that I be reinstated to the LIU Board of Directors. She and I both believed that would be the end of it. I would be re-instated and there would be no cost to anyone. Unfortunately, the board of education did not listen and there was no going back for me. As I said, I am a fighter. I was not going to allow these individuals to get away with their bad behavior. It is unfortunate that you seem to condone this bad behavior as you ask me if it was was worth it.
It is always “worth it” to fight injustice, even if I did only receive the seat back for six months. The wheels of justice turn slowly.
You are correct that after eight years I did not run for another term on the Pittston Area Board of Education. You are incorrect that I was unsuccessful in my run for Jenkins Township supervisor. The Democratic vote was very close and I received the Republican nomination. I will be on the ballot in November for Jenkins supervisor. Someone once wrote that as a reporter, my father always checked his facts. You should, too. I will fight just as hard for the citizens of Jenkins Township as I did for Pittston Area.
As for the monetary settlement, I had already decided if there was going to be one, I would make a donation to the Pittston Area Education Improvement Organization. Your editorial, nor the comments of Board President Sciandra, have had any impact on my decision. You should be looking for restitution from the individuals named as defendants in this lawsuit. They are the ones responsible.
Finally, I told you several years ago that I felt the press, including yourself, has an obligation to keep the public informed about the actions of their public officials. You said you did not feel that was the job of the Dispatch. You were more of a community paper. Seems you pick and chose what and who you want to report on.