News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 17, 2014

Teacher on paid leave during investigation

TERRE HAUTE — The former president of the Southwest Parke Education Association is being investigated in connection with questionable transactions related to a union dues account, officials have confirmed to the Tribune-Star.

The dues were paid by teachers of the Southwest Parke Community School Corp.

The school district is not under investigation.

Melissa McMullen, a teacher at Montezuma Elementary, is now on paid leave from her teaching duties, district officials have confirmed.

McMullen, who had no comment Thursday, referred questions to her attorney, Mike Ellis.

Ellis said he is confident that “the acts they are investigating do not reach to the level of criminal activity.”

He also said the investigation does not involve any public entity, including Southwest Parke Community School Corp.

Mark Shoup, spokesman with the Indiana State Teachers Association, said ISTA “is aware there is a state police investigation of this person. We are cooperating. … We don’t know a whole lot.”

McMullen had previously been president of the Southwest Parke Education Association, the teachers union, and also had served on the Indiana State Teachers Association board of directors, Shoup said.

“She is no longer in either of those two roles,” Shoup said.

ISTA’s concern is two-fold, he said, “that she is treated fairly and is innocent until proven otherwise, and that our members are protected,” Shoup said.

ISTA services to teachers have not been affected, he said.

If money has been taken from an account holding union dues, the goal is restitution of those funds, Shoup said. “We want the right thing to happen, no matter what it turns out to be.”

Indiana State Police said they cannot comment on an open investigation.

Southwest Parke superintendent Leonard Orr confirmed McMullen is not working in the school building at this time.

He referred other questions to school board attorney Gary Hanner, who said the district is cooperating with the investigation. Otherwise, “We are not involved,” Hanner said. No action will be taken until the investigation is complete, he said.

Through an agreement with the teachers union, the school district deducts union dues from teachers’ pay and deposits that money into a union account. “We don’t have anything else to do with it,” Hanner said.

Dues go to the local union, ISTA and National Education Association.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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