Group seeks ouster of school board member

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- An assistant city schools chief and 13 other people asked a judge Monday to oust from office a "physically combative" school board member who doused the administrator with ice water and pledged violence against anyone questioning her mental fitness.

The petition filed in St. Louis Circuit Court by assistant superintendent Charlene Jones, her secretary and a dozen others came three days after St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Mullen issued a temporary order barring the board's Rochell Moore from Jones and board member Amy Hilgemann.

Moore, 40, has said she believes Jones and Hilgemann are part of political plot to discredit her. She claims they dosed her with cocaine before Moore was committed for October 2002 psychiatric help against her will.

City prosecutors on Friday charged Moore with misdemeanor harassment of Hilgemann, accusing Moore of telling the woman by telephone March 2 "the Bible says that vengeance is mine. But that's not from me. I'm gonna get both of you."

Last week, Moore called her soaking of Jones justified, likening herself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks and saying that when it comes to her mental fitness, "from this day forward, anyone who brings that issue up, I am getting violent."

"I faced my giant," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted Moore of saying about Jones. "I faced the person who has been doing all these things to me."

Despite the restraining orders -- in effect until at least a March 24 court hearing on whether they should be permanent -- it remained unclear whether Moore would be able to attend a school board meeting set for tonight.

Glynn Young, a spokesman for the district, deferred comment about Monday's petition, given that "it falls outside the district's purview." He said the filing was "not something guided by the district."

State law allows a circuit judge to remove a school board member after receiving a petition from 10 city residents or any one school board member.

According to Monday's petition questioning Moore's fitness for the board, an unprovoked Moore last Wednesday walked into Jones' office and "assaulted" her by throwing ice water into her face and torso, leaving the soaked woman "shocked and offended."

The petition suggested that Moore's ouster was necessary, alleging that workers were afraid to enter the board building "for fear that Ms. Moore will harass, threaten or assault them."

"If the Board of Education employees fail to report to work out of fear, or must operate in an environment where they have substantial concerns of being harassed or physically assaulted by members of the board, the operations of the district and the schools will suffer," the petition alleged.

Moore's conduct, the filing read, constituted "an abuse of trust of her office" and "proof of gross misconduct" worthy of her ouster.

"Ms. Moore's actions of harassment, issuing threats and engaging in physically combative behavior has disrupted the ability of the work force of the Board of Education to carry out its assigned duties and responsibilities," Monday's filing read.

Moore's four-year term expires in April 2005.

Last summer, Moore allegedly threatened to kill the city's former comptroller over comments he made about her mental fitness. Police abandoned their inquiry in the matter after Virvus Jones said he never considered his life at risk.

Last August, Moore wrote a letter apparently placing a curse on Mayor Francis Slay. The letter, filled with Biblical references, said the Lord would smite Slay and anyone who helps him because of the position he has taken concerning the city's financially troubled school district.

Moore was involuntarily committed in October 2002 after being found lying on the street in front of district headquarters. Moore said her coffee was laced with cocaine in a political conspiracy orchestrated by her opponents on the school board.

Jeannette Graviss, chief warrant officer for the city prosecutor's office, said Monday that Moore's questionable history and erratic behavior helped justify the harassment charge.

"If this was an isolated incident, it's possible we would not file charges," Graviss said. "But taken together with her recent behavior, we think (the misdemeanor) was necessary."

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