In mid-August, the principal of the high school released a statement to the news media explaining why, after interviewing all the candidates, “Coach James Justice was the clear choice.” The letter highlighted his experience and success, and said that people who had played for him had “expressed their amazement of a man who works tirelessly, loves West Virginia, and loves all children as well as embraces all players, no matter their basketball talent.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Justice’s lawyer sent a letter to the superintendent warning of “legal action,” if the board were to deny him the position despite qualifications that “tower above the other applicants’.”
But at two school board meetings, several parents and residents as well as a player for the boys’ team, whose father was a candidate for the coaching job, spoke out against Mr. Justice’s appointment, saying they wanted someone who could give the team full attention. Some questioned how the governor could devote his time to two teams as well as a state in the throes of Covid-19, and expressed displeasure at the apparent answer:assistant coaches.
On Aug. 23, the board voted, 3-2, to reject Mr. Justice.
“Anybody would feel some level of emptiness,” the governor said ruefully of board’s decision, at the end of a news conference about the state’s Covid-19 crisis. He had coached more than two dozen seasons at the school, he said, achieving “success beyond belief.” “There’s no question whatsoever,” he went on, “this is the worst of the worst from the standpoint of the kids.”
At the next board meeting, in mid-September, a group of people showed up to praise Mr. Justice, reading letters of support for the governor and expressing bafflement as to why the board had not chosen him. That same day, Mr. Justice’s lawyer filed the formal grievance.
The grievance, which listed Mr. Justice’s job title as “Girls Basketball Coach,” argued that “failing to select a candidate who is by far the most qualified — whether out of personal animus, political opposition, or any other reason — is arbitrary and capricious.” The governor was hauling the county school board before a judge.
An unusual week passed. The governor announced winners in the “Do it for Babydog” vaccination lottery, the number of known coronavirus infections in the state reached new highs and the school board members conferred with their counsel. The lawyer who had sued about the governor’s unconstitutional residency in Greenbrier announced he was planning to sue again. To some, it was both surprising and predictable that things had gone this far.
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