BRADENTON, Fla. -- "They had no right to suspend me from the beginning, and that’s abundantly clear at this point," says Robert Gagnon, the former Manatee County School District assistant superintendent, responding to an administrative judge's ruling that recommend his suspension with the district be overturned.
Gagnon, his attorney and his family came together to applaud a judge's decision that found there was no credible evidence that he failed to investigate or report inappropriate conduct by a faculty member.
"Two jurists -- experienced, intelligent, independent -- listened to all the evidence in this case, on two separate occasion, and both came to the same conclusion, and that is the information that Mr. Gagnon was conspired of was not enough to make anybody … report that to the child abuse authorities," says Richard Reinhart, Gagnon’s attorney.
The latest ruling was a part of the administrative hearing begun last October after superintendent Rick Mills recommended Gagnon's termination, alleging he failed to report child abuse stemming from the Rod Frazier case. Frazier was accused of inappropriately touching students and staff, but Gagnon and his family say there is no way the educator would have knowingly turned a blind eye to that type of abuse
"To be portrayed in a way like this, well it’s nothing short of criminal," Robert Gagnon says.
"I know my husband. This is a man who's served children since he was in high school,” Says Melissa Gagnon. “He would tutor kids. He worked with abandoned, abused and neglected kids. It’s horrifying ... I find this whole thing ridiculous.”
The judge’s order not only recommends that Gagnon be reinstated, but that he also be given back pay and benefits. The final decision is up to the Manatee County School Board, which has 90 days to respond.
"We are encouraging the school board to get this decision done,” Reinhart says. “There are no grounds for this administrative hearing not to be concluded immediately."
In addition to urging a hasty resolution, Reinhart has also filed motions to exclude board members Karen Carpenter and Julie Aranibar from the decision-making process. In the meantime, Gagnon says his fight may not be over.
"The agency and individuals need to be held accountable at some point whether it’s now or later," Gagnon says.
We reached out to the Manatee school district for comment on the ruling, but they told us they did not have one.