The Panther Valley School District, its board and superintendent and one board member in particular violated the terms of former JROTC senior instructor Kenneth Markovich's contract, violated his civil rights, and released confidential information to the public, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Markovich.
Markovich, of Pottsville, filed the 15-page suit through his attorney, Michael J. Fiorillo, on Dec. 27 in U.S. District Court in Scranton. The suit asks for more than $75,000 in damages.
The suit names, in addition to the school district and board, Superintendent Rosemary Porembo and board member Roy Angst.
Porembo became superintendent on Aug. 8, 2007. She recently announced plans to retire at the end of this school year.
Angst, of Nesquehoning, was elected to his latest four-year term in the November 2011 general election.
The suit accuses Porembo of engineering Markovich's decertification by the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and Angst of releasing confidential information through his online blog and at a public school board meeting.
In a telephone interview early Monday, Angst said he would act as his own attorney, and that his testimony would be "extremely harmful" to some board members and to Porembo.
"I think it's going to be an extremely difficult case," he said.
He also alluded to alleged sexual misconduct on a JROTC bus trip, saying details of that incident "need to be brought out in court."
Angst denied violating Markovich's rights by releasing confidential information.
"I don't believe I have in any in way violated the secrecy. Nothing that I went public with was confidential at the time," he said.
Angst said he wants to keep the JROTC program.
"I am in favor of JROTC. I have been doing everything I can to save it. But the majority of the board has been conspiring to get rid of JROTC," he said.
Porembo declined to comment on the suit, saying it's the policy of the district not to discuss legal or personnel issues.
The suit's allegations include arguments that the district, board, Porembo and Angst violated his civil rights; breached his contract; invaded his privacy; and publicly disclosed private facts.
According to the suit, Markovich, a retired National Guardsman who attained the rank of major, received his certification to teach Junior Reserve Officer Training in 2009 and was hired by the district that same year on an annual contract.
Here's what Markovich's suit says transpired:
From May 2012 through November 2012, Markovich was out on workmans compensation leave after injuring his Achilles tendon. In December 2012, Porembo contacted the Department of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, which oversees JROTC programs, to complain about Markovich and question his certification. She also expressed concern that he was unable to fulfill his duties because he was on leave.
Before the complaint, Markovich had received an unsatisfactory rating by the district at Porembo's direction. Markovich also argues he was not fairly compensated while on leave.
He appealed the unsatisfactory evaluation, but argues in his suit the district never acted on the appeal and it was never included in his file, as required by state law, board policy, and his contract.
The suit says the district, through Porembo, had violated his contract by and its own policies by complaining to Cadet Command. The actions were payback for Markovich's attempt to get money he argues was owed him.
Angst is named in the suit because he revealed confidential information about Markovich in his online blog and publicly identified Markovich as the employee placed on administrative leave by the board at a Feb. 28, 2013 school board meeting, against the advice of the board solicitor.
A TIMES NEWS article recounting Angst's statements was published the next day. Markovich subsequently wrote a letter to the editor of the paper and was reprimanded for doing so. Angst continued to post information Markovich argues is confidential, the suit says.
The school board in March 2013 placed Markovich on unpaid administrative leave, and fired him at a June 2013 public meeting. The suit says that Porembo's complaints to Cadet Command resulted in the U.S. Army revoking his certification.
Markovich filed for unemployment compensation and was approved by the Department of Labor and Industry, which said the district provided insufficient information that Markovich failed to do his job.