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Annapolis High teacher seeks $250,000 in lawsuit against union

Annapolis High teacher seeks $250,000 in lawsuit against union
County Executive Steve Schuh makes an announcement on the education health care budget announcement at Central Special Education center in Edgewater. At right is Annapolis High School science teacher Sharon Moesel. (Joshua McKerrow, staff / Capital Gazette)

An Annapolis High School teacher is seeking $250,000 from the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County for a series of causes, including defamation, infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract, according to a lawsuit filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Jan. 27.

In the suit, Annapolis High School science teacher Sharon Moesel says TAAAC and its leaders made false statements about her in two letters — a censure letter sent to her in August of 2016 and a letter expelling her from the union sent in May of 2017.

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The suit claims the statements were meant to ostracize Moesel from her colleagues, cause injury to Moesel and were part of an improper effort to remove Moesel from the union. The letters were sent to her Anne Arundel County Public Schools email address, making them part of the public record, the suit mentions.

The suit also says the union and its leaders engaged in conduct meant to silence Moesel from speaking publicly about issues of concern to her and her fellow teachers. It also alleges that TAAAC breached its contract with Moesel, who pays membership dues to be a part of the bargaining unit, when it canceled her membership. It also alleges interference in contractual business and civil conspiracy.

In the suit Moesel’s attorney Greg Kline asks for $250,000 from TAAAC and its leaders, plus an award for punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other relief as the court deems fit. Kline wants a jury to ultimately make that decision, and said they are looking forward to her day in court.

In a statement provided though a Maryland State Education Association spokesman, TAAAC Executive Director Bill Jones said the union wants the suit dismissed.

“We plan to file a motion to dismiss and are fully confident that a judge will support our motion due to the basic lack of evidence presented,” he said.

The expulsion letter, sent by Jones and union President Richard Benfer, cites Moesel’s use of her position as an association representative at Annapolis High to further her “personal agenda.” This included “ingratiating” herself to County Executive Steve Schuh and allegedly attempting to negotiate pay for Annapolis High staff members.

Moesel has denied those allegations, and has also appealed her expulsion from the union. Last year Schuh spokesman Owen McEvoy said the teacher never presented herself as a union leader during meetings with administration officials or Schuh.

Moesel’s appeal is before the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board. Right now her case is in abeyance pending a hearing before the Review Board of the TAAAC regarding her expulsion, according to an online case log.

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