TPS seeks to transfer ex-employee lawsuit to federal court
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2013
2/17/13 at 4:58 AM
Tulsa Public Schools seeks to transfer to federal court a lawsuit filed in Tulsa County District Court on behalf of a former TPS employee in connection with an athletic department scandal.
The suit filed Dec. 14 alleges that plaintiff Cheryl Murphy was fired ''in retaliation for her reporting of illegal activities."
Defendants in the civil action are former Athletic Director Stephanie Spring; Jon Wheeler and Latricia Pruitt, who worked as assistant athletic directors; Keith Ballard, school superintendent; and Tulsa Public Schools and the school board.
The suit asserts that Murphy reported to school district administrators that Spring, Wheeler and Pruitt had "endangered the health and safety of students, as well as misappropriated funds."
Murphy was a clerical employee who worked as administrative assistant to Spring.
Spring was suspended in November 2011. She later resigned.
In a different case that involves allegations of criminal conduct, Spring is charged with stealing money from the school district.
That charge, filed Jan. 31 in Tulsa federal court, alleges that in 2011 Spring took an unspecified amount of money, exceeding $5,000, for the rental of school facilities that should have been deposited into the district's general fund. The charge alleges that Spring deposited the money into her personal account.
In Murphy's civil lawsuit, the school district, school board and Ballard filed notice Friday that they seek to remove that suit from Tulsa County district court, with the case to proceed instead in U.S. District Court for Oklahoma's Northern District if a federal court approves.
The removal notice asserts that federal court has jurisdiction over Murphy's "purported claims for deprivation of her civil rights."
In December 2011, the school board voted to fire Murphy. Administrators maintained that she had failed to report to work for new assignments.
In 2011, the district's campus police reported a possible violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act by athletic department employees.
Campus police indicated that Spring, Pruitt and Wheeler disclosed to a school attorney that they "had possibly gained access" into Murphy's personal email account, using a password they located within Murphy's vacated office.
In her civil suit, Murphy asserts that her privacy was invaded and that the district and school board fired her in violation of Oklahoma's Whistleblower Act.
Original Print Headline: TPS seeks to transfer suit from ex-employee to federal court
Bill Braun 918-581-8455