The Methacton School Board has appointed special outside legal counsel to advise it in an investigation of claims that Methacton School District superintendent Dr. Timothy Quinn and Dr. Diane Barrie, the district’s Director of Curriculum have engaged in inappropriate behavior concerning an alleged relationship between the two.
The legal counsel was appointed at the Oct. 23 regular meeting and the school district has since issued a statement on the district website regarding the matter.
According to the statement, the board was aware of allegations against Quinn and Barrie on Oct. 19, and appointed Frank Bartle, the managing partner at Dischell, Bartle and Dooley in Lansdale, as the special counsel on Oct. 25.
A district spokesperson said that Bartle is being compensated at the rate of $150 per hour, but a timeline for the investigation hasn't yet been outlined. The district said that funds for the legal counsel are not specifically accounted for in the district’s 2012 operating budget.
On Nov. 1, the board reportedly agreed with Bartle’s suggestion of appointing the law firm of Eckert, Seamans, Cherin and Mellot to conduct the investigation.
The rest of the statement reads as follows:
“In order to protect the rights of employees of the District, the Board will act in accordance with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law to discuss aspects of this personnel matter in executive session and will not comment publicly at this time. The Board will not attempt to speculate or anticipate the results of the investigation but rather will wait until such time as the investigation is concluded. The Board will provide a public statement as to any further action if and when it is appropriate to do so.”
At the onset of the Oct. 23 meeting, board president Joyce Petrauskas reported that the board met in executive session prior to the meeting to discuss personnel issues and potential litigation. Then on Nov. 21, Fox 29 aired a report in which it revealed e-mail correspondence that suggested a mutual intimate relationship between Quinn and Barrie, who is married. It was reported that the investigation is to determine the exact nature of the relationship, which would leave the board to decide if inappropriate conduct has occurred.
While the school district's policies do not appear to specify rules regarding workplace relationships, its "Conduct/Disciplinary Procedures" policy does address conduct that may obstruct, disrupt or interfere with the work of the school district or board.
It further states, "All professional employees are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with appropriate and orderly behavior."
Aside from the online statement, the board, Quinn and other involved parties have made no further comments on the matter.
At the Dec. 4 board regular meeting, two members of the Methacton Area School District community did publicly speak on the matter.
"I’m surprised there aren’t more parents here tonight," said one speaker, who identified herself as being a Lower Providence resident. "I urge you to speed this investigation along."
The speaker explained that she was disturbed to hear about the allegations through her son at the high school. She added that should the investigation find the involved parties guilty, those parties should be dismissed and made to pay back the incurred legal fees.
Joe Ferraro, also of Lower Providence, noted that hiring outside legal counsel might not have been a necessary part of the investigation. He asked the board if the investigation might not also be conducted using the legal counsel already working with the board.
"Why are we spending excess money in order to do something that you guys asked to be elected to do," Ferraro said. "An investigation is a matter of taking someone aside, asking them direct questions and then plotting your course from there."
According to a November 2007 report in the Intelligencer Journal, Quinn resigned from his previous superintendent position at the Elizabethtown Area School District in western Lancaster County after just four and a half months on the job. A week later his assistant in that position, Wendy Reisinger, was reassigned. WTXF reported that Quinn and Reisinger later married, but that Reisinger filed for divorce in October.