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Collier school board attorney candidate withdraws, the board is revisiting the job description

Collier County School Board
Special to WGCU
A candidate for the position of Collier County School Board attorney withdrew his name, prompting the board to revisit posting the position again.

A candidate for the position of Collier County School Board attorney withdrew his name, prompting the board to revisit posting the position again.

However, the candidate James Molenaar, indicated in an email Feb. 10 that the offer made him earlier had been rescinded.

Molenaar was approved by the board on Jan. 23 to the newly created position of school board attorney. Information on the position indicates it pays $180,000 a year.

Molenaar and other candidates appeared before the school board at that special January meeting. After the candidate interviews, the board selected Molenaar by a 3-to-2 vote after a vote to hire one of the other candidates failed.

Molenaar is a former senior legal counsel for the Collier County Clerk of Courts. He was fired from that post in May 2020, days after he filed to run for Collier County Clerk against Crystal Kinzel. Kinzel won re-election.

Previous coverage: Collier School Board votes to hire James Molenaar

The school attorney issue was addressed as “a matter of importance” at the beginning of a February 6 Special Board Meeting for the Superintendent Search.

"On Thursday (Feb. 2) afternoon, Mr. Molenaar removed his application from consideration as the board's attorney," school district attorney and district counsel Jon Fishbane informed the board. He then asked board chair Kelly Lichter, "Based upon previous direction from the board, I assume that you and (Valerie Wenrich, chief Human Resources Officer) will proceed with reposting a position. Is that correct?" Lichter replied, "That is correct."

Information from the district's communication's office confirmed that the board attorney issue is to be taken up again at the board's March 7 meeting.

A Feb. 10 email authored by Molenaar, however, has a different take.

"As many of you know, after a long and very public interview and selection process, I was selected to be the new Collier County Public Schools - School Board Attorney. However, less than two days prior to my properly scheduled start date of Monday, February 6, 2023, after I successfully completed all of the on-boarding paperwork, hours of training, fingerprint scan and urine drug screening, the Human Resources Director unilaterally, without the request of Board approval, rescinded the Board's offer of employment without affording me Due Process.  Of course this is is a violation of CCPS Board Policy; and I submit the Assistant Superintendent of HR abused her authority and discretion.  I believe she wrongfully relied on the outcry made from a few vocal minority who do not support the agenda of the new majority school board members and our governor," the email said.

Molenaar did not respond to a WGCU request for comment.

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