The Panther Valley School District has filed a lawsuit against school director Roy "Mickey" Angst, asking the court to bar him from executive sessions, and from receiving any confidential school district material or disclosing any confidential material, regardless of how he obtains it.
The suit, filed Thursday afternoon in Carbon Court by solicitor Robert T. Yurchak, argues that Angst has repeatedly violated school board policy and the oath of office he took when he was sworn in.
It says that he violated confidentiality in school district matters on several occasions, including disclosing the medical condition of the elementary school principal; revealing details of school board contract negotiations; and details of attorney-client discussions pertaining to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the parents of two students opposing a proposed drug testing policy. He also appeared in court to testify against the school district in that matter, the suit says.
The suit also argues that he at first complied with, then violated, a decision by the board to bar him from executive sessions in light of the disclosures. His insistence on being present at the closed meetings prevents the other school directors from performing their duties, the suit says.
It also states that auditors refuse to meet with the board if Angst was present after Angst verbally abused and threatened them. It says that in 2011, auditors from the state completed an audit of the district and arranged a meeting with the school board to discuss the findings. However, the suit says, "Angst prevented such a meeting from taking place due to his verbal abuse of the auditors and threats against them as is clearly illustrated by way of a letter to him dated June 30, 2011."
The certified letter, signed by Deputy Chief Counsel F. Stephen Matthes, is included as evidence in the suit.
"You have made communications both in writing and verbally to our audit staff which are inappropriate, and have raised concerns regarding the personal safety of our employees, specifically, references you have made to the use of firearms and other statements which are, at a minimum, perceived as threatening to our staff," Matthes wrote.
The letter goes on to say that the audit staff would only accept written communications from Angst, and that he is not to speak to them "by phone or in person or otherwise confront them. Should any future threatening or inappropriate behavior occur, we will reserve the right to involve the authorities in the matter."
According to the suit, auditors refused to attend any meeting at which Angst was present. His refusal to leave such a meeting meant that no meeting was held with the auditors to discuss the 2011 audit.
Angst says he
welcomes the action
On Monday morning, Angst said he has yet to be notified of the suit, but that he welcomed the action, saying he voted in favor of it at a school board meeting.
"I voted for it because I want to get it before a judge. The accusations that led to denying me access to confidential information are based on untruths, and I'm sure that will come out in court," Angst said.
Angst said that he voluntarily stayed out of executive sessions, so therefore, could not have gotten and released the confidential material discussed in those sessions.
Angst, of Nesquehoning, was elected to a four-year term on the board last year.
The nine-page suit was filed along with 14 pages of school board policy and several pages of meeting agendas.
It states that Angst "has refused to recognize confidentiality of certain matters including but not limited to contract negotiations and employee matters." It presents as evidence portions of Angst's online blog, including a June 27, 2012 entry which states "Yes, I did go public with some information that normally would be kept confidential."
The suit says Angst "has disclosed confidential attorney-client discussion(s), relative to various legal proceedings, to the side opposing the school district, with particular reference to the suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Morgan Thomas et al. versus the school district."
The suit refers to Angst's blog entries on Aug. 25, 2011 and April 16, 2011.
Angst on Monday said his publication of Yurchaks' opinion from the Thomas case triggered the lawsuit. He said he learned the information at a public meeting.
"There was nothing confidential about Robert's (Yurchak) opinion at that point," Angst said.
The suit also says Angst has appeared in court on "several occasions to testify against the school district."
The lawsuit argues that "Angst's release of confidential information has compromised the ability of the remaining eight board directors to effectively administer and maintain the school district."
The school board on Aug. 21, 2008, voted 6-1 to bar Angst from attending executive sessions. Angst waived any rights to appeal or have a hearing on the matter, the suit says. However, the suit says, he continues to obtain and release confidential information, some of which triggered a grievance against the school board by the Panther Valley Education Association.
On April 14, 2011, "after Angst released a copy of a legal opinion relative to a pending lawsuit, the board voted to deny Angst any access to any confidential material from the school district, based upon his interference with the ability of the other eight members to perform their duties," the suit says.
In June 2012, Angst appeared at an executive session and refused to leave when asked to do so. On June 14, 2012, the board voted to authorize Yurchak to seek a court order barring Angst from executive sessions.