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Updated: Indian Lake BOE evaluating referee's report on O'Donnell's status (Audio included)

The Indian Lake Board of Education met for an hour and a half in executive session at a special meeting Thursday night.

The board received a 23-page report from Robert M. Harrelson on Tuesday, November 7th.

Harrelson was the appointed referee in the five-day hearing of Superintendent Pat O'Donnell's challenging of the board's decision to suspend him without pay. The hearing took place over four days in August and one day in September.

Harrelson recommended in his report that O'Donnell should remain on unpaid suspension until resolution of the criminal proceedings against him.

The report states that on June 27th, a week after O’Donnell was arrested, the district sent a letter to O”Donnell’s attorney listing eight charges against the superintendent. Disciplinary action was going to be taken because of the charges. The charges generally centered on O’Donnell’s failure to do his duties because of the arrest.

The letter also indicated that on June 29th an “informal hearing” was going to be held to discuss the issues. O’Donnell chose not to attend that meeting. On the 29th, the board met in executive session and passed a resolution that indicated the board intended to pursue termination of O’Donnell’s contract based on the eight charges. The resolution also stated that O’Donnell would be suspended with pay.

On July 6th, O’Donnell requested a “referee hearing” disputing the eight charges, the intention for termination, and the suspension without pay.

The following is taken from the Conclusion section of the report:

“Accordingly, the Referee finds that the Board of Indian Lake Local School District has failed to provide reliable, probative, and substantial evidence that there existed good and just cause for Mr. O’Donnell’s termination and recommends that all charges (Charges#1 through #8) be dismissed against Mr. O’Donnell and that he remain on unpaid administrative suspension until the resolution of the criminal proceedings.

The referee’s opinion is not binding. The board has the right to accept or reject the referee's recommendation.

If the board accepts the referee’s opinion, termination proceedings will not take place until after the trial (which is scheduled to start December 6th) is completed.

If the board rejects the opinion, the process to terminate the contract regardless of the court outcome will continue.

It is yet to be determined when the board will act on the referee's recommendation.

No other action was taken at the meeting.

Board President Gabe Wickline discusses the meeting.

The board will next meet in regular session on Monday, November 20th at 6:30 P.M.

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