Lawsuit filed against Park City School District
July 4, 2008
A lawsuit filed by a former teacher against the Park City School District claims he was fired in February for alleged "improper conduct resulting from his inability to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate relationships with young females."
Plaintiff John McDonald immediately requested a hearing to discuss the accusations, a 10-page complaint he filed in Third District Court states.
Officials upheld McDonald’s termination following a hearing April 3, the lawsuit states.
The defendants in the case include the Park City School Board, and board members Kim Carson, Lisa Kirchenheiter, Vern Christensen and David Chaplin.
Park City High School Principal Hilary Hays, Treasure Mountain International School Principal Robert O’Connor and Tim McConnell, the district’s human resources director are also defendants in the case.
With the case against McDonald in discovery, the teacher "was informed that the investigation involved a conversation that [McDonald] had with a former student two weeks prior," according to the complaint filed June 27.
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But McDonald claims he was prevented from confronting his accuser, who is a principal witness in the case.
Board members also "coached her as to her testimony, over the objection of [McDonald,]" the lawsuit states.
McDonald was fired for allegedly "socializing with others on off-duty time, having a student in his vehicle during off-duty time making offensive remarks during off-duty time [and] engaging in off-duty conduct that was unprofessional and not characteristic or befitting of a teacher," the lawsuit states.
But, McDonald claims, the investigation was retaliation for suing the Park City School District last summer for breach of contract when his requests for compensation for coaching an academic team were denied, McDonald claims.
"The actions of [defendants McConnell, Hays and O’Connor] were in violation of plaintiff’s right to petition the government protected by the First Amendment ," McDonald’s lawsuit states.
The ex-teacher claims he was also unfairly penalized by board members for working with the Utah Education Association.
"UEA provided counseling and legal services to [McDonald] in his lawsuit against the Park City School District," the case filed last week states.
District officials did not formally respond to the lawsuit this week.
"During the fall of 2006, [McDonald] organized and obtained funding for an academic team from Treasure Mountain International School under the program run by the National Academic League," the lawsuit states.
The Park City School District reportedly provided $11,476 for the team and the Park City Education Foundation provided $10,000, the complaint states.
For coaching the team, officials agreed to pay McDonald $4,000, McDonald claims.
"After fully performing his duties as coach of the academic team, [McDonald] requested payment for his services as coach of the academic team and for reimbursement for the supplies that [McDonald] provided the academic team," the wrongful-termination lawsuit states.
Because Carson, Kirchenheiter, Christensen and Chaplin, who fired McDonald, are defendants in that case, they "had a direct conflict of interest due to [McDonald’s] pending suit against [the board.]"
His wrongful termination violated due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, the lawsuit states.
McDonald insists that he should be reinstated to his teaching position and given back pay plus interest and other damages.
McConnell said he could not comment about the case Wednesday.
"I haven’t seen anything about the lawsuit," he said.
Carson also wasn’t served this week with the case.
"Because it is a legal matter, I wouldn’t be commenting on it regardless," Carson said.