MOUNT VERNON — Closing arguments, or post-hearing briefs, have been submitted in the matter of the termination of employment of former Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater by the Mount Vernon City Schools. Administrative hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd has many pages of material to review.
Attorney Kelly Hamilton filed a 166-page brief on behalf of Freshwater. He wrote that the case ultimately comes down to “What makes sense?” versus “What does not make sense?” He contends the investigation into allegations against Freshwater was conducted in a way that would support “predetermined conclusions,” that investigator Thomas Herlevi’s reasoning was faulty due to Herlevi’s “arrogant lack of objectivity,” and the investigation did not truly examine the basic questions: Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why? and How?
Hamilton cites what he considers to be relevant case law and legal opinions, gives definitions of terms and claims the board failed to cite any specific board policy in its decision to consider the termination of Freshwater’s contract. The brief contains a number of charts and drafts to illustrate its points, calls the credibility of the board’s witnesses into question and basically denies all of the allegations against Freshwater.
In conclusion, Hamilton wrote: “The BOE has failed to establish any of the specifications against John Freshwater by clear and convincing evidence. John Freshwater prays this referee, after consideration of the evidence presented, and assessment of the testimony heard, will find the Board of Education (BOE) has failed to prove the charges set forth in the resolution to consider his termination.”
In the brief, Hamilton also wrote, “John Freshwater earnestly petitions the referee for careful selection of the language to be used by the referee in the findings and recommendation and render a decision that is clear, precise and leaves no room for manipulation.”
Attorney David Millstone, counsel for the school board, responded to Hamilton’s brief. He wrote, “Mr. Freshwater’s one hundred and sixty-six page brief is long on scurrilous personal attacks and short on supporting facts and law. Much of his brief contains arguments and statements that are irrelevant to the issues before this referee.”
One irrelevant item, according to Millstone, is Freshwater’s focus on the HR on Call investigation report. Millstone wrote, “The report has not, and will never be the basis for Mr. Freshwater’s contract termination.” He added the hearing will be the basis of the board’s decision.
Reviewing the evidence, Millstone said the facts do confirm the allegations against Freshwater. He concluded, “As our educators have a broad and enduring effect, it is imperative the rights of the students left in their charge are guarded with vigor and diligence. John Freshwater taught in Mount Vernon Middle School for twenty-one years. He accepted an enormous responsibility to educate, protect and guide thousands of students. Mr. Freshwater failed to live up to his responsibility.”