MOUNT VERNON — On March 8, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education, through its attorney Sarah Moore, filed a response to John Freshwater’s appeal of the termination of his teaching contract. The board fired Freshwater in January after administrative hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd determined the board had “good and just cause” for terminating his contract.
The board denied all the allegations in Freshwater’s appeal, and stated that Freshwater could not bring many of his claims before the court because they had already been raised in his previous lawsuit in federal court. That case was dismissed with prejudice in October. Dismissal with prejudice means he cannot again bring those same issues before the court.
The board also rejected Freshwater’s plea for monetary damages. The defense claims the board acted in good faith and asserts that certain legal doctrines bar Freshwater’s claims or restrict his right to monetary recovery, as does his own conduct.
“Plaintiff’s claims are frivolous and known to Plaintiff to be without foundation in law or fact. Furthermore, this suit is being pursued in bad faith and for vexatious reasons for the purpose of harassing Defendant. Accordingly, Defendant is entitled to attorney’s fees and other appropriate costs and expenses incurred in defending this action,” Moore states in the answer.
The board requested the complaint against it be dismissed with prejudice, at Freshwater’s costs.
Gregory Frost, the United States District judge to whom the case was assigned, issued an order on March 10 which questioned his jurisdiction over the matter. If the court does have jurisdiction, Frost questioned whether it was proper to exercise that jurisdiction in view of the abstention doctrine, and ordered the board to provide a brief explaining why the case should not be returned to Knox County Court of Common Pleas.
The abstention doctrine, according to uslegal.com. is when a federal court declines to hear a case for one of the following reasons:
1. To avoid a federal constitutional question where the case may be disposed of on questions of state law.
2. To avoid needless conflict with a state’s administration of its own affairs.
3. To leave to the states the resolution of unsettled questions of state law.
4. To ease the congestion of the federal court docket.
Freshwater said he did not have a comment at this time.