Pickens County Schools Social Worker Lynn Palmer resigned during a public hearing Friday afternoon.
Previously, Superintendent Dr. Ben Desper had recommended Palmer’s termination to the board. In a comment to FYN Friday, Desper said the official reasons for this recommendation were insubordination and willful neglect of duties. Before the start of the hearing, though, Board Vice Chair Byron Long asked for recusal.
In his opening statement, representing the superintendent, Attorney Phil Friduss fielded a series of objections from Attorney Stewart Duggan regarding information and documentation from open records requests made by Duggan. According to the discussion, the documents dealt with a request of charges against Palmer. Duggan claimed that the county violated Georgia’s Fair Dismissal Act, which defines the manner in which an employee is to be terminated, including in some cases a probationary period and a statement describing reasons for termination. The issue was highlighted due to Palmer’s disability, epilepsy.
During his opening statement and his examination of his first witness, Superintendent Desper, Friduss sought to prove that the district did provide a probationary period for Palmer and a charge letter, describing reasons for dismissal. Desper gave several accounts of Palmer’s work record, highlighting situations where she fell short of expectations, neglect of duties, and insubordination. The superintendent also said that the district worked with Ms. Palmer to improve her peformance, saying she was given a Professional Development Plan (PDP). Despite his recent recommendation to the board for Palmer’s dismissal, Desper noted that Palmer’s performance improved slightly. Friduss argued that the PDP was evidence the district attempted to help, providing a probationary period prior to recommendation for dismissal, and that the district was not in violation of Georgia’s Fair Dismissal Act.
Arguing for the Plaintiff, Mr. Duggan cited Palmer had not received a bad write-up in almost ten years and that four principals had given her good reviews. He added that co-workers had allegedly spied on her, documenting work, and medical visits.
The morning session, though, was interrupted when Palmer had a seizure, lasting approximately five minutes. The hearing went into recess for 15 minutes, during which time the attorneys convened and then convened again in private during lunch recess. Following lunch recess, Duggan read a prepared statement to the board.
“Ms. Palmer hear-by submits her resignation at this time under protest and under threat of termination,”
“Ms. Palmer denies each of the charges and allegations and facts testified. She still contends she is a victim of illegal discrimination and retaliation. This resignation is also a waiver of her rights under the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act and is being offered contingent upon receiving her full salary through February 28, 2013. She understands that she will remain on administrative leave with pay through February 28, 2013.”
After Duggan read the statement, Chair Woman Lowe asked Superintendent Desper, who was still on the stand, if this was his recommendation to the board. Desper confirmed that it was and the board approved the recommendation in a 4-0 vote, which included Long’s recusal.