Embattled SL athletic director gets appeal

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

After meeting for more than an hour in closed session Thursday evening, the board voted 6-0 to listen to Mohrhardt’s appeal.

Mohrhardt filed a lawsuit on Feb. 23 in Ottawa County Circuit Court, requesting 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 parent Matthew Bradley, “I am not going to kiss your butt.” But Mohrhardt objected to the written reprimand being part of his permanent file without administrators consulting witnesses to the incident.

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

Furton said Thursday night, however, that he’s supportive of the board’s decision to offer Mohrhardt an appeal.

“Spring Lake is a small and close-knit community,” Furton said. “This issue had the potential to strain many relationships. I think each of the board members found it to be an easy decision in the end because they really do care about this community and the school system. In the end, that was the only factor.”

School board member Madonna Kramer said Thursday’s discussions centered on “the process” and not on specifics of the incident.

“I think we’re doing what is in the best interest of all parties,” she said.

Board President Dina Horne said board members were on the same page with the decision.

“I’m very open to hearing whatever Mr. Mohrhardt wants to share,” she said.

The board is leaving it up to Mohrhardt whether he wants the appeal in open or closed session. Furton said the meeting will likely be sometime Tuesday at Spring Lake Middle School.

“He will have the opportunity for the board to hear his position and to consider his claims,” Furton said. “The board could choose to uphold the reprimand or overturn the reprimand and have it removed from Mr. Mohrhardt’s file.”

Mohrhardt did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday evening.

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