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Blairsville-Saltsburg School District v. Blairsville-Saltsburg Education Association

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

August 20, 2014

Blairsville-Saltsburg School District
v.
Blairsville-Saltsburg Education Association, Appellant

Argued April 23, 2014.

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the table format in the Atlantic Reporter

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge. DISSENTING OPINION BY JUDGE LEADBETTER.

OPINION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge.

Blairsville-Saltsburg Education Association (Association)[1] appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County (trial court) which granted Blairsville-Saltsburg School District's (School District) Petition to Vacate Arbitration Award that reinstated Kevin L. Stoner's (Grievant) discharge.

The School District employed Grievant as a teacher since 1988. On June 20, 2012, the School District's Board of Directors (School Board) voted to terminate Grievant's employment. At the time of his employment termination Grievant taught social studies to 7th and 8th grade students.

Grievant's criminal record history is uncontested. In 1987, Grievant was arrested in New York and charged with driving while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle with .10% blood alcohol content (BAC). Both offenses were graded as misdemeanors. Grievant pled guilty to the traffic offense Driving While Ability Impaired under Section 1192(1) of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law.

Thirteen years later, in 2000, Grievant was arrested in Pennsylvania and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and related charges. This offense was graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree. Grievant was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. Grievant successfully completed the program and as a result, the charges were dismissed and the charges were expunged.

Ten years later, in 2010, Grievant was arrested and charged again with DUI in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Given Grievant's BAC and the existence of the earlier DUI charge, this DUI was graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree.

On July 31, 2011, Grievant entered a guilty plea to DUI under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(c), which involved the highest rate of alcohol and a second offense for sentencing purposes. Grievant was sentenced to five years' probation with the first five months on house arrest with electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet). Grievant was also ordered to surrender his driver's license for 18 months, complete an alcohol highway safety program and complete a court reporting network (CRN) evaluation.

Grievant's sister contacted the School District's Superintendent, Tammy Whitefield, Ph.D., (Dr. Whitefield), and told her of Grievant's 2010 DUI arrest. When confronted, Grievant admitted he was arrested for driving while impaired in 2010. Grievant informed Dr. Whitefield that he had attended Gateway Genesis, a rehabilitation center and that he was sober. Grievant later told Dr. Whitefield about the two prior offenses.

On January 20, 2012, the School District sent Grievant a Statement of Charges informing him that he was suspended without pay and that the administration recommended his dismissal based on these offenses. The School District asserted that the three incidents of driving while impaired constituted " immorality" which constituted " just cause" for terminating Grievant's ...


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