This story was updated to correct to which Whitmer football game Patrick Hickey requested sideline passes.
Patrick Hickey has not yet been seated on the Washington Local Board of Education, but his election has already caused conflict within the district, including vague legal threats by Mr. Hickey against the district, and a directive by Washington Local’s lawyer that he stop contacting staff.
Emails provided to The Blade through a public records request show Mr. Hickey began pressuring the school board and Superintendent Susan Hayward to lift his ban the morning after he was elected Nov. 7. The ban dates back to 2015, when he resigned as the district’s superintendent amid questions about his conduct and past accusations relating to him having inappropriate relationships with students in a previous job.
In his post-election emails, he linked support for him with support for future district tax levies, told Ms. Hayward to remove his separation agreement from the district’s website, asked her to unblock him from social media and, asked her to instruct other administrators to unblock him as well.
“I will use every legal recourse at my dispisal (sic) if you attempt to suppress my ability to do the work I have been duly elected to do,” he wrote in a Nov. 10 email. “Lift the ban, take the slings and arrows and move on. Furthering this ban is unacceptable.”
Mr. Hickey’s election to the board has generated further divides in the community between his supporters and opponents. An online petition to keep Mr. Hickey’s ban from district property in place has nearly 2,000 signatures, and activists are planning potential demonstrations against him.
He did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Thursday.
Mr. Hickey resigned as superintendent of Washington Local Schools in December, 2015, shortly before school board officials could consider a resolution to fire him because of 37 charges compiled by a law firm hired to investigate the former superintendent's behavior on behalf of the board. Those charges included allegations that he failed to inform the district that he left Addison Community Schools in Addison, Mich., in 1990 after accusations surfaced that he had inappropriate relationships with students.
A 2016 Michigan State Police report details conversations investigators had with a woman who said she had sex with Mr. Hickey when she was 14, and he was her coach and teacher at Addison High School more than two decades ago.The Lenawee County Prosecutor's Office declined to press charges because the woman requested that they not, and because it was reported outside the statute of limitations, a police report said.
His 2015 separation agreement stipulates he can only come on district property for events related to his children, although he was later banned from district property for any reason after a Whitmer High School basketball game where he aggressively confronted referees and the district's athletic director, and hugged then-interim Superintendent Cherie Mourlam after she had made it clear she was uncomfortable.
In his emails, he requested district Athletic Director Tom Snook give him sideline passes to Whitmer’s playoff game Friday at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium against Powell Olentangy Liberty. Ms. Hayward denied his request, telling him board members don’t receive sideline passes to games, though he says in a later email to his attorney that he had gotten passes to a game through “game management.”
In a Nov. 11 email, attorney Sue Yount from the firm Bricker & Eckler emailed Mr. Hickey’s attorney, Dennis Pergram, and told him Mr. Hickey was not to contact district staff other than his daughter’s teachers, and then only if the contact pertained to her education. He was also told he would not be given a sideline pass for the Nov. 10 Whitmer High School football game.
“Please advise your client, Patrick Hickey, that his election to the board of education did not make him a board member until he is sworn in as a board member. Until and unless there is further action from the Washington Local School District Board of Education, he is not to contact any employee of the district,” she wrote, adding later, “Any call, email, or other contact by Patrick Hickey to or with any Washington Local School District employee is unwanted contact that will require action to protect that employee.”
In a short response, Mr. Pergram asked what authority the district had to stop him from contacting staff.
“Last I heard Toledo was still in America,” he wrote.
Mr. Hickey claimed in an email to his attorney that district employees are contacting him “in droves” since the election.
“Contact by employees is certainly not unwanted when they are reaching out to me in astonishing numbers. I will absolutely respond to them as their elected representative as it is my duty,” he wrote. “This harassment and these threats need to end immediately.”
While Mr. Hickey said staff are flocking to his side, the teachers’ union is steadfastly opposed to his placement on the board. Union President Christopher Hodnicki said in an email to members last week he intended to address the “divisive” aspects of the election and the union would “remain vigilant to keep our kids and staff safe by taking all necessary actions to do so.”
Before the election, Mr. Hodnicki and union Vice President Fritz Schermbeck spoke to The Blade. Union leadership once supported Mr. Hickey. Now, while some teachers continue to support Mr. Hickey, others are “terrified of retaliation” if they speak against him, Mr. Schermbeck said, and worry that his election to the board is divisive for the district.
“It's hard to put into words the fear you hear from your own members,” Mr. Schermbeck said.
Mr. Hodnicki said Mr. Hickey has twice threatened him with defamation lawsuits. Union leaders say they are concerned about their members’ safety.
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