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Mahoney v. George

Other Lower Courts

July 27, 2005

Charles F. Mahoney, Plaintiff,
v.
Daniel George, CHERYL HAAKE, HAMBURG CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

Editorial Note:

This case is not published in a printed volume and its disposition appears in a table in the reporter.

COUNSEL

GERALD JAY, ESQ., Attorney for Plaintiff

MICHAEL McCLAREN, ESQ., Attorney for Defendants

OPINION

Patrick H. NeMoyer, J.

This action, setting forth eight causes of action, is one for slander. The plaintiff maintains that the defendants, Daniel George (George), and Cheryl Haake (Haake), made false and defamatory comments to third parties, relating to the reasons the plaintiff resigned from his two previous teaching positions. At the time these alleged incidents arose the plaintiff was an elementary school physical education teacher, employed by the defendant, Hamburg Central School District (Hamburg). George was the Assistant Superintendent for Hamburg, and Haake was the principal of Union-Pleasant Elementary School in Hamburg, where the plaintiff taught. The defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's complaint.

The first cause of action alleges that George told Matthew Bermingham (Bermingham) on June 11, 2003 that the plaintiff was forced to resign from two previous teaching positions "for inappropriate interaction with students, including the touching of female students." At the time, Bermingham was a fifth grade teacher in Hamburg and the vice-president of the teachers' union. At his deposition in this action Bermingham acknowledged having a telephone conversation with George about the plaintiff on June 11, 2003. He stated that George told him that the plaintiff was being investigated for an "inappropriate fixation" with a young student, and a "possible relationship" with a female teacher in the school. Bermingham had no recall of George ever stating to him the specific words attributed to him by the plaintiff.

Three causes of action related to words allegedly spoken about the plaintiff by George and Haake to Dawn and Keith Thurnherr. The Thurnherrs were parents of a young female child, who was a student in the plaintiff's school. According to the plaintiff's second cause of action, on July 22, 2003 George orally advised the Thurnherrs that the plaintiff was forced to resign from two prior teaching positions because of "child molestation involving high school girls." The third cause of action also relates to an incident on July 22, 2003. The plaintiff maintains that George specifically told Keith Thurnherr that the plaintiff had to resign from two former teaching positions "because he had engaged in statutory rape." The eighth cause of action is alleged to have occurred on August 18, 2003. The plaintiff asserts that both George and Haake separately told Keith Thurnherr that the plaintiff was forced to resign his teaching positions at Lewiston-Porter and Falk schools "because he had inappropriate interaction with an older girl."

In support of the defendants' summary judgment motion, Keith and Dawn Thurnherr have each submitted an affidavit. They both state that the plaintiff's allegations are false, and that George and Haake never spoke those words to them about the plaintiff.

The fourth cause of action involves an alleged occurrence on July 28, 2003 with Catherine Schrauth (Schrauth). Schrauth is the parent of children who are students in Hamburg. According to the plaintiff, Haake told Schrauth that she has verified, through sources at the plaintiff's prior employment places, that the plaintiff was "forced to resign from two prior teaching positions because he engaged in child molestation." However, Schrauth testified in her sworn deposition that Haake never mentioned anything to her about the plaintiff being involved in child molestation.

In the fifth cause of action the plaintiff alleges that George made slanderous statements about him to Don Rappold (Rappold) on July 29, 2003. Rappold was the Assistant Superintendent of Lewiston-Porter Central School, where the plaintiff was formerly employed. It is alleged that George told Rappold that the plaintiff had "inappropriately and sexually touched a kindergarten student" while employed by Hamburg. Contrary to this allegation, Rappold testified at his deposition that George did not make any such statement to him, nor did George imply or allude to improper sexual conduct with any student by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff's sixth cause of action involves an alleged statement made by George and Haake to Gary Vara (Vara) and Mark Hoeber (Hoeber) on August 4, 2003. When this supposedly occurred, Hoeber was the President of the Hamburg Board of Education and Vara was a member of that Board. The plaintiff maintains that George and Haake told Vara and Hoeber that they were recommending that the plaintiff's tenure be revoked, because he had to resign two prior teaching positions due to "child molestation." In his deposition Vara has testified that George and Haake never made such a statement to him. Hoeber has submitted an affidavit in which he states that the plaintiff's allegation is false, and the statement attributed to George and Haake was not made to him.

Both George and Haake have submitted affidavits on this motion, wherein they categorically deny ever making the statements to any of the individuals, claimed by the plaintiff to have been made by them. George also stated that prior to the commencement of this action he had a "strictly professional" relationship with the plaintiff and did not dislike or harbor any ill-will toward the plaintiff. George avers that the ...


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