(07/23/2005)
By Dianne Weaver

There have been further delays on a petition seeking to remove Hampshire County School Board Superintendent David Friend and two school board members from office.

The petition, filed by attorney Chris Davis on behalf of a Hampshire citizens group, alleges inappropriate hiring practices and misuse of grant funds.

A three-judge panel denied in part a motion to have the petition against Friend dismissed.

A new suit has just been filed by the Citizens for Quality Education in Hampshire County.

Friend's attorneys argued that a public officer may not be removed from office for acts he may have committed during a previous term of office. They said Friend could not be held accountable for anything before July First, 2004, when he began his second term of office.

The panel declined to accept their interpretation.

The petition also seeks to remove board members Brenda Pyles and Helen Heatwole from office. A third member, Cindy Smith, has already resigned.

The case is the result of fall-out related to the activities of former Hampshire delegate and House Finance Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta, widely supported by school administrators and board members.

Mezzatesta was employed as a grant writer by the board. He was defeated in his bid for re-election, after he allegedly obtained education funds which he distributed to local fire departments, among other infractions.


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