Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 24 September 2010 00:00
Darnell Powell, former principal at the Westbury Middle School, along with his attorney Steven Morelli of Garden City, said they are planning on “going after anyone who did this to him” after Powell was removed from his position at the end of August following what Morelli stated were sexual harassment allegations.
According to a written statement emailed to The Westbury Times, the Westbury School District said, “Darnell Powell was reassigned out of his position as principal of Westbury Middle School in the spring of 2009. After an investigation and a hearing as provided by law, his employment within the district was terminated in the summer of 2010. It would be inappropriate for the district to comment further on the dismissal, to respect the privacy regarding personnel matters.”
During a phone interview with The Westbury Times about Powell’s termination, Morelli said, “He’s an administrator. Part of his job duties are to oversee teachers and to ensure that they’re doing a proper job. When he confronted one of the teachers with a substandard performance, he was reported for sexual harassment.
“Based upon the outlandishness of what was being said, he thought the system would take its course and the matter would be resolved to his favor; however, it’s become very clear that based upon the untruthful allegations that he’s been railroaded through the system, for whatever reason.”
Morelli stated that Powell, during his tenure within the school district, had an otherwise “unblemished record,” and said the termination came as a result of a “witch hunt.”
“Some of these allegations were months and months and months if not years old, all of a sudden they find themselves in trouble and they point the finger at somebody else,” said Morelli.
“You have a situation where two individuals who were problems … who were certainly not, according to the administrators in the school district, doing their jobs properly … when called upon they lashed out by making allegations,” he said.
Morelli stated that, to his knowledge, the alleged sexual harassment was “unwitnessed by anyone” and featured “unsubstantiated claims from a woman who was rated poorly in her job performance.”
“He was railroaded through an administrative proceeding, he was terminated … in the meantime she sued him and the school district, and got another woman who was not involved in this in the first place [to] say something … they came up with a 60-year-old woman who said he looked at her the wrong way,” Morelli said.
“They decided to protect themselves by going after Darnell,” Morelli said.
Morelli referred to Powell as “a budding success story” whose career was “ruined ... with nonsense.”
“There’s an action pending in Federal Court against the school district and Darnell [by] the two women … and we’re appearing in that action and we’re either going to amend his answer to include counter-claims against the women themselves and possibly cross-claims against the school district,” said Morelli.
“And if we don’t do that, we’re going to bring separate action and sue everybody,” he said.
Dennis Hinson has filled the Middle School Principal position on an interim basis, according to the district, and Hinson will remain in this position as the board of education continues to conduct a search for a full-time replacement.