Governor Violated Law for Political Ends
The Fairness Center
Contact: Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, email@example.com
April 19, 2016, Philadelphia, Pa.—Last year, Governor Wolf abruptly removed Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green after he led the SRC in approving new charter applicants. The reason? Wolf, who opposes charter schools, thought approving any new charters “irresponsible.”
But it was Wolf who acted irresponsibly. The law says an SRC member can be removed from office only for wrongdoing—not for disagreeing with the governor.
Today, at an 11:00 a.m. press conference in the press room at the School District of Philadelphia (440 N. Broad Street), Green and the Fairness Center will announce a lawsuit seeking to overturn Wolf’s firing of Green as SRC Chair.
“Governor Wolf defied the law by removing me from office for purely political purposes,” commented Green. “The powerful teachers’ unions that gave $1.6 million to Wolf’s election campaign oppose charter school expansion. Our students deserve better, and they deserve options. To protect the integrity and independence of the SRC and the office of chair from political manipulation, I am suing the governor.”
Green isn’t the first to be on the receiving end of Wolf’s ire. Soon after assuming office, Wolf fired Erik Arneson, the duly appointed executive director of the Office of Open Records, for political reasons. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court later reversed Wolf’s decision and reinstated Arneson.
“Governor Wolf exceeded his authority in firing Bill Green,” commented David Osborne, president and general counsel of the Fairness Center. “The statute clearly says an SRC member may be removed from office only because of wrongdoing and with written justification. Neither was present here. Like the Arneson case, Wolf acted arbitrarily for partisan reasons. We expect the court to reinstate Bill to his former position as chair of the School Reform Commission.”
Green says the suit will not be a distraction to the work of the SRC, which will always put children above politics:
I have tremendous respect for my colleagues whether we agree or disagree on a particular issue. We do this work for our children. The courts will decide this matter of law without much effort or input from us, and we will abide by the courts’ decision. Commissioner Neff and I stood side by side after the governor removed me, and I am confident we will continue our solid working relationship despite our differences on charter schools and this issue.
However, I cannot ignore that Wolf’s illegal move may prevent a future chair from acting in the interests of children if the governor opposes a proposed action.
Wolf’s removal of Green as SRC chair is contrary to Section 696(b)(2) of the Public School Code which allows removal from an office only “upon clear and convincing evidence of malfeasance or misfeasance in office.”
The same section of the code states that before removal, “that member must be provided with a written statement of the reasons for removal and an opportunity for a hearing.”
Wolf never accused Green of malfeasance or misfeasance and failed to provide written justification or a hearing prior to removing Green from office. There is no such action to point to.
Merriam-Webster makes clear the meaning of “office”: “a special duty, charge, or position conferred by an exercise of governmental authority and for a public purpose; a position of authority to exercise a public function and to receive whatever emoluments may belong to it.”
Bill Green is a native Philadelphian and has been a member of the School Reform Commission since 2014. He also served as a Democratic city councilman at-large in Philadelphia from 2008-2014. Green resigned from city council to join the SRC as chair as a volunteer giving up his $130,000-a-year council salary and a pension because he believes Philadelphia’s future requires great school options for families.
In the private sector, Green has founded several businesses and represented Fortune 500 companies and start-ups as a corporate lawyer.
David Osborne and Bill Green are available for comment. Contact Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.