Updated: 06/10/2014 11:19 PM
Created: 06/10/2014 9:34 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
The Duluth School Board voted to investigate member Art Johnston for alleged assault, racist comments and a conflict of interest among other offenses.
After two hours of discussion the board approved an independent law firm to investigate the allegations.
“If this goes through with this firm on there this will clearly be a witch hunt, nothing else but a witch hunt,” Johnston said.
The allegations include assault of Superintendent Bill Gronseth and School Board Chair Mike Miernicki. Neither wished to comment on the allegations during or after the meeting.
Only Johnston and member Harry Welty opposed the motion.
“We're talking about a process that I find deeply flawed and the motivations of the people highly suspect,” Welty said.
Johnston said he believes the alleged assaults stem from a frustrated exchange at the Duluth East High School graduation ceremony last week, but he denied touching Gronseth or Miernicki.
“My demeanor is I'm a fairly strong person, I have a loud voice, but I wasn't yelling at anybody,” Johnston said.
Johnston said he has had a 14-year relationship with a special education instructor at Duluth East, and he said he was upset the district was moving her to another school. He said his involvement in those proceedings may be the support for the conflict of interest allegation.
“I'm assuming they're saying that conflict of interest was me as a school board member was speaking up for my spouse,” Johnston said.
He said made it clear he was only involved with those proceedings as a supportive spouse.
Johnston is uncertain why it is alleged he made a racist comment, but he said he has support from the minority communities in the district.
Johnston also denied the remaining allegations saying they are an attack on him for his questioning the school district on many topics including the controversial Red Plan.
The school board vote initiated an investigation, but members said answers about the allegations could take weeks or longer.
Johnston was disappointed the board chose to spend the money on the investigation, but he was able to introduce an amendment requiring the school board be updated on the cost of the investigation every month.
The list of allegations against Johnston include, but are not limited to:
Alleged abuse of authority as a school board member as it relates to staff member/members.
Alleged conflict of interest in relation to a staff member. Alleged violation of the Code of Ethics, Board Policy 8050.
Alleged assault of or otherwise improper conduct toward the Superintendent of Schools.
Alleged assault of or otherwise improper conduct towards the School Board Chairman.
Alleged racist or otherwise improper comment about a staff member.
DNR Talks Safety After Hunter Attacked By Bear, More Details Released
Family members said a hunter is undergoing a second surgery after a bear attack in Pine County. Brandon Johnson is from North Branch and was attacked by a wounded bear early Saturday morning. DNR officials and hunting guides said tracking a wounded bear alone is not recommended.
MSHSL to Vote on Policy Changes for Transgender Athletes
It's in reference to a proposed Minnesota State High School League policy that's scheduled to be voted on this week. The policy would allow transgender high school athletes to play in sports based on their gender identity, not their gender at birth.
Domestic Violence Deaths Reach 77 in Minnesota, Wisconsin for 2013
Domestic violence resulted in 77 deaths in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2013. A group called End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin released the latest numbers for Wisconsin on Monday. Advocates in the Twin Ports say the important thing is to work toward fewer deaths in 2014.
Level III Sex Offender Moving to Rural Duluth
The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office says a sex offender is moving to a rural Duluth neighborhood next month.
Fire at Lincoln Park Apartment Building Under Investigation
Fire officials are investigating the cause of a blaze that broke out at an apartment building on 18th Avenue West near Superior Street on Monday. The fire caused $30,000 in damages.