BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER
An elementary principal who claims Tunkhannock Area School District wrongly suspended him has filed a federal lawsuit seeking more than $75,000 for back pay and other damages.
Joseph P. Moffitt, who serves as principal of the Evans Falls and Mill City elementary schools, said district officials violated his civil rights by failing to provide him a full opportunity to defend himself against allegations relating to his oversight of a assessment test given to students.
The lawsuit, filed last week by attorney Andrew Katsock of Wilkes-Barre, states that Moffitt was suspended on June 7, 2012, based on allegations he failed to properly administer the 4Sight assessment test, which measures students’ aptitude.
According to the suit, Moffitt was questioned by the school district’s attorney, Jeffrey Tucker of Bethlehem, for two and a half hours that day, but Moffitt was never provided details of the evidence against him.
Moffitt said he did not learn any additional information until more than one month later, when he received a letter from the district. The letter provided only general information and did not detail the specific allegations or identify witnesses who made the claims.
The lack of information impeded Moffitt’s ability to prepare a defense for a termination hearing that was held on Sept. 19, Oct. 24 and Nov. 8, the suit states.
The district notified Moffitt by letter on Nov. 16 that the school board had rejected the administration’s recommendation he be terminated and opted instead to continue his unpaid suspension until Jan. 28, 2013.
The suspension cost Moffitt $53,675 in lost salary and vacation time as of December 2012, according to an exhibit attached to the lawsuit.
The suit claims the district violated Moffitt’s rights to due process. It seeks compensatory damages on seven counts, including breach of contract, wrongful suspension in violation of public policy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.