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Washington Local Schools considered firing former superintendent in 2015

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Patrick Hickey testifying during civil protection order hearing before a magistrate in May, 2017. Documents show Washington Local Schools had compiled a list of 37 charges against the then superintendent and was prepared to fire him before his 2015 resignation. Hickey denies many of the assertions.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Former Washington Local Schools Superintendent Patrick Hickey, who is now a candidate for the district’s board of education, was facing charges that could have led to his firing in 2015 when he suddenly resigned during an investigation into his behavior, according to a document obtained by The Blade.

The document, a letter dated Dec. 11, 2015 from the district’s treasurer to Mr. Hickey, stated in the first paragraph that the board intended to meet that night and consider “a resolution to suspend your contract without pay and initiate termination of your contract of employment.”

What follows in the letter are findings of an investigation by Columbus-based law firm Bricker and Eckler, hired by Washington Local to look into numerous allegations of misconduct by Mr. Hickey as superintendent.

RELATED: Washington Local letter to Patrick Hickey 

That investigation, and its findings, have now surfaced within weeks of the Nov. 7 election with a copy of the “Allegations/Charges” letter prepared for the board of education given to The Blade by a person who had a copy of it and offered it to the newspaper on the condition that its source remain anonymous.

The law firm found numerous problems with Mr. Hickey’s behavior, including that he didn’t disclose that his departure from a previous school district was because of allegations he had inappropriate relationships with students at that district before he came to Toledo; inappropriate “emotional and/or sexual relationship with one or more subordinate teachers of the district,” and misuse of district funds.

In December, 2015, Mr. Hickey said he resigned so as not to put the district or his family through any more turmoil. But the document shows the district had compiled a list of 37 charges against the then-superintendent, and was prepared to consider firing him.

District officials say since Mr. Hickey resigned before he could be presented with the charges, the document was not signed nor provided to him. And since he resigned, Mr. Hickey was never given a hearing to contest the charges.

But the document is authentic, district Treasurer Jeff Fouke and former board chairman and current board candidate Tom Ilstrup both told The Blade last week.

Mr. Hickey said he has never seen the document outlining the allegations against him and contends it is being used as a “political ploy” to prevent his election to the board in next month’s election.

“The board said there was no document,” he told The Blade last week about conversations he said he had with Washington Local officials after he resigned. “They told myself and my attorney.”

He denied many of the board’s assertions and said if they were true he should have been fired rather than allowed to leave with a severance package of $300,000.

“If these were true, I would fire me,” Mr. Hickey said. “I would not give me $300,000.”

Mr. Ilstrup said the document was not given to Mr. Hickey because conversations between the board and Mr. Hickey turned to negotiating a severance package in exchange for his resignation, instead of termination.

“As I recall, I was still in the process of discussing that with our attorney when everything sort of took a different direction,” Mr. Ilstrup said.

When asked why the district never made the findings of the investigation public, Mr. Ilstrup said he didn’t have a good answer for that. He said he personally felt his hands were tied, as he was about to leave the board, and worried about plunging the district into a lengthy and contentious legal process while he was on his way out.

Board members said little at the time about why they paid Mr. Hickey to leave, but framed it as a way for the district to quickly move on from the months of contentious drama surrounding the former superintendent.

An opponent of Mr. Hickey in November’s election, Mr. Ilstrup said he didn’t think Mr. Hickey should be involved with a school now or in the future.

"I think there's too much of a cloud over his past that I don’t think he has a place in public education,” he said.

The document provided The Blade is the official notice and charges that were prepared to comply with state law for the termination of a teacher or superintendent.

Mr. Hickey questioned why the document was leaked now. He said it is a “laundry list” of falsehoods and its release is politically motivated.

The document presented allegations made behind the scenes in Washington Local for years that Mr. Hickey left Addison Community Schools in Addison, Mich. in 1990 after accusations that he had inappropriate relationships with students while a teacher and girls' basketball coach.

It stated that he lied about why he left the Addison district, and that he left Addison “as a result of allegations that you had a relationship with one or two students of that school district, and your relationship(s) became too close and too personal.”

Mr. Hickey told The Blade that he denied the board’s charge that he left Addison Schools because he was accused of having personal relations with students.

“There were rumors that I had inappropriate relations with students,” he said. “That was investigated by Michigan State Police in 1990 and unsubstantiated.”

The document given to The Blade also stated that Mr. Hickey used Washington Local district funds to curry favor with board members by buying them “birthday gifts and get-well gifts,” that he used district money “to purchase clothing for yourself after the treasurer indicated that such expenditures would not be a valid public expenditure,” and that he was repeatedly insubordinate with the board.

The most salacious allegations in the document given to The Blade involved Mr. Hickey’s alleged conduct with district teachers.

The document stated he was in a "personal relationship" with a teacher from fall, 2012, until spring, 2015, with the pair exchanging in "emails, text messages, private Twitter messages, and conversations of a personal nature."

Mr. Hickey told The Blade last week he objected to most of the allegations in the document: "I did nothing sexual, romantic, financial, nothing involving a student, nothing unlawful, and I violated no policies."

Mr. Hickey was placed on administrative leave twice in 2015 before he resigned. The first leave stemmed from a district investigation into an informal complaint by a husband and wife — both teachers in the district — who claimed Mr. Hickey harassed them after an alleged affair between the wife and Mr. Hickey ended.

The document received by The Blade last week stated that Mr. Hickey received videos from a teacher that included nudity.

“You were a party to the misconduct by requesting and/or encouraging that videos be sent by the teacher, or you failed to take action to initiate discipline, corrective directives to the teacher for her misconduct, or any investigation of the misconduct, or both,” the document stated.

Mr. Hickey denies that he engaged in behavior that was “too personal” or “inappropriate” with teachers. He did admit that a Washington Local teacher sent him videos involving nudity, but denied he solicited any inappropriate communication from the teacher.

“There was a teacher who sent me inappropriate videos,” he told The Blade on Thursday. “I think that’s the teacher’s problem.”

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at nrosenkrans@theblade.com419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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