MOUNT VERNON — The hearing of witnesses and presentation of evidence in the John Freshwater contract termination dispute ended Tuesday. Mount Vernon school superintendent Steve Short was the sole rebuttal witness, and answered questions from the board’s attorney, David Millstone, and Freshwater’s lawyer, Kelly Hamilton.
The bulk of Short’s testimony dealt with materials removed from Freshwater’s classroom, when they were removed, how and where certain items were stored and which personal things were returned to Freshwater. Questions were also raised as to whether the material stored at Central Office were in a locked area and who, if anyone, had access to the material besides Short.
After Short’s testimony concluded in the afternoon, the attorneys and hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd conferred. Back on record, Shepherd asked both lawyers if each had presented all of the relevant evidence and witnesses pertinent to the matter at hand. They said yes.
Shepherd then addressed the gallery.
He said both attorneys have agreed that all of the exhibits and all of the items introduced during the hearing will be admitted into evidence for his review.
“It is my duty and responsibility to weigh them and consider their value. ... That’s part of my job as the ‘tryer of fact’ in this process,” he said.
Shepherd explained it would be up to him to determine whether the evidence is relevant, and whether it supports or does not support claims made by Freshwater or the school board.
The closing arguments for both sides will be done on paper, Shepherd said. That will allow counsel to go back and review all of the arguments, notes and transcripts.
The attorneys must present their briefs to Shepherd by July 26, at which time Hamilton and Millstone will have the opportunity to read each other’s arguments. Reply briefs in response to those closing statements must be submitted to Shepherd by Aug. 2.
“The dates are not chiseled in stone,” Shepherd said. “They are subject to change if absolutely necessary.”
Once in possession of the final briefs, Shepherd will review all of the exhibits, transcripts, briefs and other pleadings involved with the case.
“The hearing, in my judgment, ” he said, “is not actually terminated until I thoroughly review all the material. I will endeavor to do so as quickly as possible. When I reach a decision, I will declare the hearing terminated and will get my recommendation to the school board [within 10 days of the hearing’s official termination].”