By Tim Hunt
The Vranesh situation heads to courtUploaded: Oct 28, 2014
The vexing challenge faced by the Pleasanton school district got more difficult this month when former Walnut Grove Principal Jon Vranesh filed a law suit against the district.
Vranesh was removed as principal in a 4-1 school board vote last December after the administration and three board members decided he was responsible for creating "hostile work environment" and allegedly using vulgar language to refer to female staff members.
After being removed as principal, he was re-assigned as a roving administrator. He told the school board earlier this month that he had been re-assigned as a classroom teacher at Village High School. He then said he was placed on administrative leave and has been receiving $95,000 for doing nothing. He also said that he had been isolated b district administrators.
His legal action asserts that district administrators retaliated against him for filing a complaint last October with the state Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing that accused district leaders of sex/gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The 165-page law suit has 14 causes of action.
Let me be clear?I have no inside knowledge about this. I know what I have read and what I have observed and reported on over four decades of newspapering.
That said, this could be one of those cases where the district ends up paying on both sides.
The district's insurance carrier already has settled complaints from two female employees for a total of $490,000 and Vranesh's legal action contends that the district already had paid its legal firm $316,000. In addition to Vranesh's complaints, there are also two other employees who have filed claims related to the investigation.
With the formal legal action now filed, the Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi could not confirm Vranesh's employment status. In his comments to the school board, he said that Bill Faraghan, the assistant superintendent of human resources, put him on administrative leave before he could start at Village. He also said that Faraghan told him that he would receive a "statement of charges" by mid-August and had received nothing to date.
The case is sadly reminiscent of one at the Livermore Police Dept. many years ago when a female officer claimed she was sexually harassed by a lieutenant. After investigating, the city paid a settlement of six figures (around $300k if my memory suffices).
Discussing the settlement, the city attorney let his mouth run ahead of his brain and slandered the police lieutenant who then filed suit. The city ended up settling that action, again in six figures, with the total cost including outside counsel running more than $1 million.
Given actions and expenditures to date, the school district will be fortunate to resolve this without running well beyond that total. .
The situation is inherently difficult because of the state personnel laws, but it is difficult to understand why the district leadership did not move ahead with additional personnel action against Vranesh if they had the proof.
How this situation has been handled should be on voters' minds when they decide on the school trustees. The two incumbents were both in the majority that removed Vranesh.
The irony is that there's been quite a flap over the new calendar?a process that the district handled very well?when this is far more significant.