Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lancaster PA Civil Rights Trial Postponed – Bishop/Baker Defendants

Both Rita Bishop and Curt Baker have been dropped from the lawsuit according to School Board Chairman, David Carson in a Sunday email.

Rita Bishop

Rita Bishop

MAY 22, 2009 – A civil rights trial involving four former top city school officials has been postponed to June 29.

The accused and the accuser – another former school official – no longer work in the School District of Lancaster.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will preside over the trial, which is now scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in courtroom 8-A, in Philadelphia.

The judge ordered that no further extensions be allowed.

The case involves a suit filed by former assistant superintendent Rose Sampson.

The defendants are the school district, former superintendent Rita Bishop, former business manager Curt Baker and former federal compliance officer Robert Bourdeaux.

In June 2005, Sampson, who is currently the principal at Ben Franklin School in the Harrisburg School District, was fired from her position in the School District of Lancaster. She filed the civil rights lawsuit in December 2005.

Sampson could not be reached for comment this morning.

In her lawsuit, she seeks $1 million in damages.

All defendants have denied the claims, according to court documents.

Bishop resigned from Lancaster one year ago to take the superintendent position in Roanoke City Public Schools in Virginia.

Because it is a pending legal matter, Bishop declined to comment this morning.

Baker is now the deputy superintendent for operations in Roanoke. Bourdeaux has retired.

He was in an office meeting this morning and unavailable for comment.

The School District of Lancaster declined to comment also because it’s a pending legal matter, spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder said.

Curt Baker

Curt Baker

The counts, according to court documents, are:

  • That Sampson was subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, a protection under the Fourth Amendment, during a near-midnight search in her office inside the district building without reason and permission.

Bishop, Baker and Bourdeaux were present during the search.

Sampson also alleges she was deprived of due process, a right under the Fourteenth Amendment, because the entry into the office was reported in the newspaper. As a result, she claims, her reputation was impugned.

  • That her reputation was damaged.
  • And, that Bishop “acted with malice” when she released a report that stemmed from records found during the late-night search, according to court documents.

In addition to Bishop, Sampson claimed that Bethany Novis, an employee at the accounting firm Reinsel Kuntz Lesher, issued a written report that “falsely stated” that she was “not proactive enough” in her duty to correct errors in the handling of Title I funds. She claims that she had no control over them, court documents state.

The judge has dropped Novis and Reinsel Kuntz Lesher, which conducted the audit, from the case.

“We we are always confident this would be dismissed,” said accountant Bob Simons, who was in charge of the audit. “Unfortunately with the legal system, it takes some time to do it; I’m not surprised. It’s just been a long process to get to this point.”

Bishop started her position as superintendent in Lancaster in July 2004.

Around that time, school officials were conducting a long-running internal finance investigation, checking into, among other things, federal contracts overseen by Sampson’s office.

REPRINT Courtesy Lancaster New Era, Lancaster, PA


NOTE: I sent this article for comment through Tiffany Woods and received no response. However, School Board Chairman David Carson responded in an email saying that, “I’m aware of the existence of the suit. I know no details, and am thus unable to comment.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Roanoke City Public Schools

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