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Harrisburg, PA

The Commonwealth Court upheld the firing of former Tunkhannock Area Principal Joseph Moffitt in 2016.

On August 13, 2018 a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania found “no merit” in arguments by Moffitt, who appealed the state Department of Education secretary’s decision to maintain the Tunkhannock Area School Board’s decision to fire him.

Moffitt was charged with two DUIs in four years.

At the time of his arrests in 2010 and 2014, Moffitt was principal of Evans Falls and Mill City Elementary schools, which are roughly 7 miles apart.

With the first arrest, the charge was resolved through his participation in the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition program, which allowed him to avoid a criminal record for the offense.

However in 2014, Moffitt was arrested again for DUI and entered a guilty plea, which resulted in 90 days of house arrest, fines and five years of probation.

On March 11, 2016, the Tunkhannock Area board notified Moffitt that he had been recommended for dismissal and evidentiary hearings would be held.

The district’s position was spelled out by acting Superintendent Frank Galicki who testified that “two DUI offenses caused irreparable damage to Moffitt’s reputation and ability to lead the two schools; that his behavior was contrary to the school district’s attempts to discourage students from drinking and driving; and that allowing him to return to his position would send mixed messages to school district students.”

Galicki was among eight witnesses who said that Moffitt’s conduct offended the morals of the community and was a bad example to students.

Moffitt appealed the finding, suggesting that he was unfairly terminated because of retaliation for an unrelated civil rights lawsuit, and that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he was terminated with knowledge he was being treated for alcoholism.

Senior Judge James Condon Collins wrote in an eight-page opinion: “We find no basis in the record to conclude that Moffitt’s employment was terminated for any other reason than that annunciated by the school board and the secretary, nor is there evidence he was discriminated against due to his alcoholism or the fact that he engaged the school district in unrelated litigation.”