School district plays hardball with ousted softball coach

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Judge denies restraining order; attorney says Glass used field to conduct ‘private business’

By Ben Carlson

The school district’s attorney alleged Monday that former varsity softball coach Brian Glass used the district’s softball facility to operate a “private business,” and that a uniform purchase for the team benefitted a member of his family.
The allegations came during a two-hour hearing that ended with Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman rejecting Glass’ motion for an emergency restraining order against the school district that would have given him back his coaching job.
Following Hickman’s ruling, Glass’ attorney, David Guarnieri, accused school Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and her attorney, Robert Chenoweth, of “playing games” while questioning if an anti-nepotism law is the only reason Glass is no longer the varsity coach.
“Brian is entitled to some honest answers,” Guarnieri said moments after the hearing ended, adding that he is considering taking Hickman’s ruling to the state’s Court of Appeals. “His players are entitled to some honest answers about why he’s not coaching. If [the school district] is going to play games and not address what the issue is, it’s a disservice to my client.”
Glass lost his coaching and teaching jobs at the high school last summer when Mitchell named his brother, Chris, interim high school principal. Mitchell reassigned Brian Glass to teach at the middle school and be an assistant middle school softball coach.
Glass objected, saying the state’s anti-nepotism law doesn’t apply to coaches and that, in essence, he reported to athletic director Rick Sallee, not the high school principal.
During Monday’s hearing, Chenoweth peppered Brian Glass with questions about his interaction with previous principals, including his former principal Ronnie Fields.
“Do you remember Mr. Fields talking to you about the inappropriate purchase of uniforms?” Chenoweth asked, adding that the purchase would benefit a family member of the Glass brothers.
Glass said he did.
“Do you remember Mr. Fields talking to you about using the softball field [to operate] a private business?” Chenoweth asked.
Brian Glass said he remembered that conversation, too.
Hickman, the judge, said in denying Brian Glass’ motion to be reinstated immediately that he wasn’t ruling on the nepotism issue, only that the motion didn’t meet the criteria to issue a restraining order.
“That won’t be decided today,” Hickman said.
Throughout the hearing, Chenoweth contended that Brian Glass and his attorney could not establish that he had a “concrete personal right” to be the varsity softball coach.
He also contended that even if Mitchell misapplied the anti-nepotism law in reassigning Brian Glass, it didn’t matter because coaches serve on a year-to-year basis at her discretion.
“Even if Ms. Mitchell is wrong, she’s entitled to be wrong in her interpretation of the law,” Chenoweth said. “If Sheila got up one morning and decided it’s time for a change, she has the right to do that.”
In his motion to be reinstated, Glass contends that if the district hires another varsity coach while his suit makes its way through court, it would harm his career.
During testimony, he said that his goal is coach softball at the collegiate level and to do so, he would first need to win a state title at the high school level.
He said this year’s team has a chance to do that and him not being there harms him and his former players.
Guarnieri, his attorney, contended throughout the hearing that Mitchell, through legal counsel, misapplied the anti-nepotism law and, because of that, Brian Glass should be able to return as varsity coach until the court has made that determination.
Hickman granted the district’s motion to have the parents of one softball player removed from the lawsuit, but denied one that would have removed the school board.