SL school board to mull options in athletic director dispute

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:24 AM

A special meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Spring Lake Middle School, 345 Hammond St. It is expected the board will open the public meeting, then go into closed session to discuss the suit, which was filed Feb. 23 in Ottawa County Circuit Court by Athletic Director Cavin Mohrhardt.

According to the lawsuit, Mohrhardt is seeking an appeal in front of the board after being “written up” by Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist for a response Mohrhardt made to the parent of a Newaygo basketball player at a Jan. 24 contest between the Lakers and Lions.

Mohrhardt admitted to Gilchrist that he told the parent, Matthew Bradley, “I am not going to kiss your butt.” But Mohrhardt wrote in a Feb. 17 letter to Superintendent Dennis Furton: “All of my interaction with Mr. Bradley on Jan. 24, 2012, was done to meet my responsibility to the kids.”

The athletic director objected to the written reprimand being part of his permanent file.

Mohrhardt’s request for a hearing before the board was denied by Furton in a Feb. 21 correspondence. The superintendent said in that letter that it was Mohrhardt’s choice of words that warranted the written reprimand, and that the context was irrelevant.

Furton said Tuesday that he and the board consulted with legal counsel, and were advised of three options: to dispute the lawsuit, to have the board listen to details in an open or closed meeting, or to have a formal hearing before the board.

“I’m confident the board would prevail if we disputed the lawsuit, but I’m not convinced it would be in the best interest of the community to pursue that particular avenue,” the superintendent said.

Furton said if the board was to decide to hear the case, Mohrhardt could decide whether he wanted that to happen in an open or closed meeting. Furton said if such a hearing happened, it would likely be in the next week to 10 days.

Both Furton and Mohrhardt declined to discuss details of the incident on Tuesday.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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