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Suspended Palmerton principal suing district over locked door at hearing

Published March 22. 2018 01:21PM

A suspended Palmerton Area High School principal is taking the school district to court over a locked door at her termination hearing in January.

Paula Husar, through her attorney Mark Bufalino, filed a complaint in Carbon County Court on March 1 alleging Palmerton violated the state’s Sunshine Act by posting a note on and locking the door to the district administration building at the beginning of the hearing.

Carbon County President Judge Roger Nanovic recently issued an order scheduling the case for argument on May 8 at 1:15 p.m. in the Carbon County Courthouse.

Suspended without pay since she was walked out of the high school by district administrators in September, Husar requested a public hearing in front of the school board after Superintendent Scot Engler recommended her dismissal based on more than 20 charges.

“The school district is the owner of the administration building and, therefore, only someone employed by the school district would have the capability of locking the door,” Bufalino wrote in the complaint. “The hearing room was not filled to capacity and therefore, the sign was an intentional falsehood.”

Husar’s termination hearing was to continue March 29, but board President Barry Scherer said Tuesday night that a preliminary injunction request filed by Husar “put the brakes on that process until a decision comes from Judge Nanovic.”

Before the 6 p.m. hearing on Jan. 31, the public was allowed into the building and the hearing began with around 20 people in attendance.

John Audi, an attorney representing the school district, argued that there was no evidence anyone was denied access to the hearing.

In his court filing, Bufalino submitted affidavits from residents Anne Cronk and Serena Russo, both of whom stated they were “denied access to the hearing.” Russo wrote that she “witnessed a school official unlock the door to allow a board member inside.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Palmerton resident Doris Zellers asked for honesty when it comes to what happened with the door.

“If someone made a mistake or a bad judgment call, that is acceptable. We just want you to be honest,” she said.

Sometimes, Audi responded, the issue isn’t black and white.

“It’s very possible there was no dishonesty here and maybe it was a misunderstanding,” he said.

Bufalino has asked the court to award relief to Husar, including an order invalidating the Jan. 31 hearing and direct the district to present all testimony at public hearings in accordance with code, and to direct that all proceedings relative to the termination charges be held at a neutral site.

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