VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - It will be up to the Vigo County School Board to determine if the contract for former school superintendent Danny Tanoos will be canceled.
Tanoos is on paid leave as the director of safety and security at the school corporation.
He faces three counts of bribery in Marion County.
Current superintendent Robert Haworth said the school corporation is moving forward with plans to terminate Tanoos' contract.
But what steps are involved and how much of the process is open to the public?
Once the process to terminate the contract began, News 10 reached out to Haworth to learn more.
On Monday, News 10's Jon Swaner received an email from Jonathan Mayes.
Mayes is an attorney from the Indianapolis law firm Bose, Mckinney, and Evans.
Mayes told us the initial step taken by Haworth is called 'Notice of Rights and Preliminary Decision.'
He said it's similar to filing a lawsuit, letting Tanoos know the allegations filed against him.
The process is called a 'Garrity Interrogation.'
The school corporation can demand Tanoos answer any questions about the charges filed against him.
If he refuses to answer them, Mayes said Tanoos will be found insubordinate...and that is grounds for termination.
From there, the process moves to what's called a superintendent's conference between Haworth, Tanoos, and their lawyers.
That conference is where Tanoos can explain why his contract should not be terminated.
Haworth can recommend the board terminate Tanoos' contract...or make no recommendation at all.
If he recommends termination...Tanoos would go before the board for another conference.
Mayes wrote the school board would serve as judge and jury, with evidence being presented by both sides.
All of this would be done in an executive session.
The board's decision, however, would have to come during a public meeting.
It only takes a simple majority to terminate any contract.
If the board votes to terminate Tanoos's contact, he can appeal their decision to the courts.
A detailed explanation of the process:
1. Notice of Rights and Preliminary Decision. A Notice of Rights and Preliminary Decision was sent to Dr. Tanoos by Dr. Haworth. This began the termination process. The Notice and Preliminary Decision is similar to the filing of a lawsuit—liability in a lawsuit isn’t automatic with the filing of a complaint but only after a jury’s verdict. Similarly, this Notice and Preliminary Decision provides notice of the allegations.
2. Garrity Interrogation. Under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Garrity v. New Jersey, the VCSC has the ability to demand that Dr. Tanoos answer all questions regarding the criminal charges. Importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that Fifth Amendment right to be silent cannot be asserted in these interrogations. If Dr. Tanoos refuses to answer questions by raising his Fifth Amendment right to be silent, he will be found insubordinate, and thus his employment can end due to insubordination.
3. Superintendent’s Conference. This conference is between Dr. Haworth, the superintendent’s counsel who will be prosecuting the case, Dr. Tanoos and his counsel. This informal, private conference is Dr. Tanoos’s opportunity to explain why his employment should not be terminated. Dr. Tanoos has five days from the date he receives the Notice of Rights and Preliminary Decision to request the superintendent’s conference.
4. Superintendent’s Recommendation. Following the superintendent’s conference, Dr. Haworth must decide whether to make a second recommendation to cancel the contracts (and move this process forward) or decline to make the recommendation.
5. Board Conference. If after the superintendent’s conference the superintendent recommends contract cancellation, Dr. Tanoos has five days to request a board conference. Unlike the superintendent’s conference, the board’s conference is a much more formal trial-like hearing. The Board in a board conference sits as the judge and jury. The Board members are the jury members that hear the evidence, consider it, and then deliberate as to what to do. Indiana statute states that this is a “private conference” hearing and is held in executive session. The superintendent’s counsel would present the superintendent’s case justifying the contract cancellation recommendation through witnesses and admission of evidence. Dr. Tanoos’s counsel would have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and VCSC counsel can cross-examine any of Dr. Tanoos’s witnesses (including Dr. Tanoos). Dr. Tanoos and his counsel will also be able to provide Dr. Tanoos’s case as to why the Board should not cancel the contract.
6. Public Vote. Following the private conference, the Board at a public board meeting must (by a majority vote) vote to approve or disapprove detailed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law that either uphold the superintendent’s recommendation or rejects the recommendation.
7. Appeal. Dr. Tanoos has the opportunity to appeal any adverse decision to the courts.