Highlands School District places 2nd unidentified employee on unpaid leave
The Highlands School Board has fired one employee and placed another on unpaid leave.
At its meeting Monday, the school board dismissed Iesha Griffin, a payroll and benefits secretary. In a separate action, it approved a statement of charges against another, unidentified employee and placed that person on unpaid leave effective Tuesday.
The board had approved a statement of charges against Griffin and placed her on unpaid leave in January. She had not been identified at that time.
On Tuesday, district Solicitor Ira Weiss confirmed Griffin was the employee charged and placed on leave in January.
He said Griffin was fired because of job issues he would not specify. He said she had worked for the district for “a matter of months.”
An attempt to reach Griffin for comment was unsuccessful.
The Tribune-Review filed a Right to Know request under state law with the district in January for Griffin’s name, basic employment information and the charges against her. The district invoked a 30-day extension, and as of Monday had not released the requested information or denied the newspaper’s request.
Regarding the second employee placed on unpaid leave, as with Griffin, the cause of the leave is a job performance issue that does not involve students and is not criminal, Weiss said.
In response to a resident, school board President Debbie Beale said the employee placed on leave Monday cannot be identified.
As he did in January, Weiss defended the district’s policy of not identifying the employee at this time.
“While the employment process is pending, employees are entitled to confidentiality,” he said. “Their labor contract says it.”
Melissa Melewsky, a media law counsel with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said that under the state’s Sunshine Act, the public has a right to know who is the subject of a vote.
“The name should be announced prior to the vote so the public can understand and offer comment,” she said.
The Tribune-Review attempted to place an objection on the record at Monday’s meeting on the basis that not identifying the employee denies the public a meaningful opportunity to comment before official action. A reporter was not permitted to do so because he is not a district resident.
Melewsky said that is also a Sunshine Act problem, because any person has the right to raise an objection at any time to a perceived violation at any meeting.
“The limitation to residents and taxpayers is only permitted during public comment,” she said. “An objection … is not ‘public comment,’ and the act does not allow agencies to limit the right to object.”
Weiss did not attend Monday’s school board meeting and could not immediately comment on a reporter not being permitted to make an objection.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .