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West Jefferson Hills board: Kinavey not denied due process

| Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010

West Jefferson Hills school directors say suspended district superintendent Terry Kinavey's due process was not violated during her termination hearings.

On Wednesday morning, the board voted 7-0-1 to adopt a resolution to deny a motion claiming the due process violation and requesting Kinavey be reinstated.

Director Dr. David Graham abstained because he was a witness in the case, and board vice president Shauna D'Alessandro was absent.

Kinavey was suspended without pay or benefits on Nov. 17 and is charged with incompetence, intemperance, neglect of duty and immorality. An investigation by district solicitor Ira Weiss concluded that Kinavey directed the removal of Denise Breisinger's name from a list of teaching candidates to be hired at Thomas Jefferson High School, and did so for personal reasons.

"The board feels compelled to state that it has strictly followed the procedures of Section 1080 of the Public School Code, both with respect to the filing of these charges and as to the conduct of this hearing," the resolution said. "The General Assembly has granted this board the exclusive authority and indeed the sole responsibility in instances where there are allegations of misconduct that, if proven, would warrant the dismissal of the school district's superintendent, to both approve the promulgation of the charges and to adjudicate the evidence in support of those charges."

The document stated that, if Kinavey has a problem with the procedure, she should take that to the General Assembly.

The school board is set to begin deliberations on whether Kinavey should be terminated.

During the termination hearings, Kinavey's attorney Ernest DeHaas filed a motion contending that the board violated Kinavey's due process because Weiss partook in the termination hearings.

He asked that Kinavey be reinstated at her full salary and benefits, that an independent counsel not associated with the school district or Kinavey be appointed to investigate whether Kinavey's conduct warranted termination under the public school code, and that the appointed counsel submit a written recommendation on whether Kinavey should be charged.

He also asked that Kinavey's attorneys be allowed to conduct voir dire or questioning to decide whether a juror can handle the case without bias of all school board directors regarding their communication with anyone involved in the case.

The resolution said the school board appointed Michael Palombo as a hearing officer to instruct the board on procedures, and that neither Weiss nor any member of his law firm counseled the school board since the charges were brought against Kinavey.

Attorney Alan Lubelski, of Weiss' law firm, represented the school district until May 4, when the case was taken over by attorneys Stacey Vernallis and Howard Schulberg of Goehring, Rutter & Boehm.

The school board said Kinavey has not cited any other court decisions excluding her federal lawsuit against the district to support her claim of a due process violation because Weiss acts as the district solicitor, investigated Kinavey and testified against her.

The resolution said if voir dire occurs, then every school board director would be a witness, and state court decisions indicate that a member of a public body acting as a hearing witness should recuse themselves. It said the motion failed to prove any instance of bias by any school director.

DeHaas declined comment because he said he had not seen the resolution.

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