CLEARFIELD – A former employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Clearfield County Career & Technology Center.
Franklin W. Walk of Clearfield alleges in his complaint that he was fired for reporting that former Executive Director Elizabeth Frankhouser had inappropriate photographs on her work computer.
His case was discussed before Judge Fredric J. Ammerman on Wednesday with both sides presenting arguments.
According to court paperwork, Walk had been a computer systems administrator at the school since October of 2004. Sometime in 2016, Frankhouser asked him to repair her computer.
He reportedly removed the hard drive, installed a new drive and then transferred all the information from the old drive onto the new one. He saved the old hard drive in a bin in his office with other older parts.
On March 19, 2017, he learned from other staff that Frankhouser was showing sexually explicit photos to other members of the staff on her cell phone.
At this point, he started to be concerned that there could be other inappropriate photos within the school’s computer system.
Because he did not want to risk exposing the school’s system or unintentionally add sexually explicit photos to the network, he took the old hard drive home and examined it on a computer with no access to the school’s network.
He discovered pictures that were “not appropriate for a public school computer or for a public school employee to have on a school computer,” according to the complaint.
Walk determined the best way to inform supervisory individuals of the problem without risking his own job was to anonymously send prints of the images to the chairperson of the CCCTC operating committee.
Frankhouser’s computer was then inspected and she resigned immediately.
Walk says he did not admit he was the one who sent the photos because he was afraid of reprisal. But when he was confronted about it, he did admit to it.
He was then suspended and eventually fired for removing school property from the school.
During the hearing on Wednesday, attorney Jennifer Dambeck, who is representing CCCTC, argued that Walk’s complaint does not include specific details, such as who he spoke with when he admitted he had sent the photos.
There is also no timeframe listed between him sending the photos and his firing.
A letter referred to in the complaint that contained the reasons for his discharge was not included with the filing.
Walk’s attorney, Andrew Carson, responded that it was not months or years after the fact that Walk was fired.
After Ammerman asked to review the prints, Carson warned him that they are sexually explicit and some were of minors.
Ammerman flipped through more than half of the photos before declaring “that’s enough.”
The judge will review the complaint, objections and briefs before making a decision whether the case can go to a trial.
Walk is seeking back wages, pension payments and other fringe benefits as well as counsel fees.