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Dalton sues for $100,000 Observer-Reporter Article

Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010 by Ed Dalton

Dalton sues for $100,000

7/20/2010 3:30 AM

Trinity High School football coach Ed Dalton filed a lawsuit Friday against the district, claiming a breach of an oral employment contract.

The suit, filed by attorney Mark E. Scott, seeks Dalton's reinstatement as Trinity's athletic director. Dalton claims damages in excess of $100,000.

"We went out of our way not to go this route," Dalton said Monday.

According to the suit filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Trinity Area School District offered Dalton a three-year contract to continue to serve as athletic director and activities director in addition to his duties as football coach and weightlifting coach on or about Jan. 6. Dalton claims the meeting took place with then-Acting Superintendent James R. Dick and solicitor Dennis Makel in the superintendent's office.

The lone condition to the contract was that Dalton appear at the Jan. 7 school board meeting and address the public as well as thank the board.

"They said, 'Here are the things we want done,'" Dalton said. "I did everything they asked."

The saga started in December, when a newly elected school board opened Dalton's job as athletic director and also opened all fall varsity head coaching positions. The decisions were rescinded at the January meeting.

After months of public haggling, Trinity Area School Board transferred Dalton from athletic director to teacher in June and created an annual position that pays $80,000-plus to make that happen. The district faces a $250,000 budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

"Number one, it was unprofessional in the fashion it was done," Dalton said. "It's terribly unprofessional. If they would have come to me and said, 'Ed, we don't want the (athletic director) to be football coach anymore. We want to go another direction and want to know what job is more important to you.' But they never did that."

Trinity has yet to hire a full-time athletic director less than a month before the start date (Aug. 16) for fall sports. That hiring must be approved by the school board, which has clashed with Dalton for months.

Word of the lawsuit has filtered throughout the school district.

"Mr. Dalton can do what he wants to do," said Tom Bodnovich, president of the school board. Makel and board member Scott Day could not be reached for comment.

Trinity hired Dalton as its athletic director and football coach before the start of the 1999-2000 school year. When former Trinity Superintendent Douglas Masciola offered him the job, Dalton said, "His first sentence to me was 'How would like to be the football coach for the worst football team in Western Pennsylvania?'"

Dalton, the former coach at Mt. Pleasant and Altoona turned Trinity football from a laughingstock to a competitive program and one which regularly drew attention for producing Division I players.

The Hillers are 54-56 during Dalton's tenure with seven WPIAL playoff appearances and, as athletic director, the school added boys lacrosse and boys volleyball.

"I never heard one complaint that had anything to do with my duties as athletic director," Dalton said. "I worked 104 nights during the year in addition to being at school in the morning. I was at lacrosse, volleyball, baseball, you name it."

Staff writer Dawn Goodman contributed to this report.

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