Almost two months ago, Loretta Moore promised to render a decision in a long-simmering dispute between the Lawrence school district and a tenured teacher whose contract had not been renewed.
The ruling, she said, would be in district officials' hands by Dec. 31.
It wasn't and still isn't. Moore, a former law professor at Washburn University, can't be found.
"We haven't heard a thing," said Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman. The district has several thousand dollars invested in the case.
No one, it seems, knows what to do.
"I guess it's time for a conference - to scratch our heads, decide to have another hearing or settle," said Rod Bieker, general counsel for the Kansas State Department of Education.
"I'm afraid I can't help you," said Bill Rich, associate dean at Washburn Law School. "She's moved. She doesn't respond to e-mail, and I don't have a current telephone number."
Neither the Kansas nor the Missouri bar association had a current street address or telephone number for Moore.
Bieker is in an awkward position because Moore's name was on a list of hearing officers the department gave the district.
"We'll help in any way we can," he said, "but I'm really at a loss as to what we can do." The department, he said, is not liable for Moore's inaction.
State law is unclear on how to fill voids created by hearing officers who do not fulfill their duties.
"This has never happened before," Bieker said.
Weseman is livid. "It can go in perpetuity," he said. "I'm not spending another dime of taxpayers' money on this."
So far, he said, the district has spent more than $20,000 defending its 2004 decision not to renew its contract with special education teacher William Ricketts.
According to district records, reasons cited for not renewing Ricketts' contract included:
¢Inappropriate interaction with staff and students with severe behavior disorders.
¢Failure to follow students' Individual Education Plans.
Grievance proceedings lasted from September 2004 to early January 2005. Moore was supposed to issue a ruling in February 2005.
Without a ruling, the grievance remains unresolved. If pressed, the school district could, in theory, be forced to participate in another hearing, creating a scenario in which it could be cheaper to enter a settlement.
"This is absurd," Weseman said.
Because Ricketts had tenure, state law required the school district to pay his $3,170-a-month salary for the eight months between his contract not being renewed and the conclusion of the grievance hearing.
Weseman said he has not heard from Ricketts or his Lawrence attorney, John Knox.
Knox did not return calls from the Journal-World.
School officials are unsure of Ricketts' whereabouts.