Court decision axes hearing on Redfield case; School board wasn’t told, lawyers say

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

MONROE — A Monroe County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon to stop the Michigan Tenure Commission from hearing the case against suspended principal Dean Redfield until criminal proceedings against him are completed, attorneys said.

Attorneys for the Bedford school board said they were never alerted about Friday’s hearing. They plan to contest the ruling this week.

Mr. Redfield, 50, principal of Jackman Road Elementary School, was suspended in January and later charged in Monroe County with three counts of criminal sexual conduct involving three first graders at the school. He faces a charge of gross sexual imposition in Lucas County.

On Aug. 20, the Bedford school board sent administrative charges against Mr. Redfield to the Michigan Tenure Commission, which could decide that there is cause to fire him.

On Wednesday, a hearing will determine if the temporary restraining order becomes permanent. If it is upheld, the order will likely postpone the tenure hearing until at least February. Mr. Redfield’s trial in Lucas County is scheduled to start on Dec. 1. His charges in Monroe County will be tried Feb. 9.

The order was handed out after a day of judicial musical chairs, when the motion was considered in the courts of all three Monroe County Circuit Court judges.

Tim Churchill, Mr. Redfield’s attorney, said Judges Michael LaBeau and William LaVoy both disqualified themselves from the case – Judge LaBeau because of his friendship with Mr. Redfield and Judge LaVoy because he will preside over Mr. Redfield’s criminal trial. At about 5 p.m., Mr. Churchill said, Judge Joseph Costello agreed to take the case.

Bill Blaha, attorney for the school board, said he was never informed about the hearing, however. At about 3:30 p.m., he said, he was told by the clerk of court’s office that all three judges would disqualify themselves from the case and that a visiting judge would be brought in to hear the motion “sometime early next week,” he said.

As a result, no attorneys for the school board were present at the hearing, which took place at about 5:30 p.m., after normal court hours.

Mr. Blaha said there was no need for an “emergency” issuance of the order in this case. Mr. Church ill said Mr. Blaha should have known about the hearing.

Mr. Blaha said he will file papers in court tomorrow morning asking that the order be reversed.