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Harner firing raises questions about process - abc27 WHTM

Harner firing raises questions about process

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Repercussions continue to reverberate from the H-bomb dropped Monday by the state Department of Education. Doctor William Harner, former superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District, was abruptly shown the door as acting secretary.

"I was surprised," said Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland). "Just very surprised."

Vance lives in and represents CV schools. She's still stunned by the Monday bombshell that Harner's nomination was being yanked because of inappropriate or offensive comments he made to staffers while at CV.

"I just can't put all the pieces in one place yet," Vance said.

Cumberland Valley released a statement Tuesday that connected some of the dots. It said that in August Harner consented to the district releasing the results of an internal investigation into those comments to state investigators vetting him. The statement added: "At no time was Doctor Harner found to have violated any law, regulation or district policy."

See the entire statement here.

In his own statement on Monday, Harner alluded to a witch hunt, saying, "Detractors to my approach have succeeded in undermining my confirmation with a campaign of distortions."

It appears Harner was undermined and removed by what he said, not by anything he did. That, to several people who wouldn't go on camera, seemed a bit unfair and excessive.

Vance said Harner was always upbeat and energetic but admits he had detractors. "I think he was a polarizing character. People either loved him or hated him. I don't think I ever met anyone who said, 'he's ok.' But the people who loved him, loved him a lot."

As with many controversies at the Capitol, there are lots of questions and few answers.

Why didn't the Corbett administration know that Harner had been investigated and accused by staffers at CV prior to nominating him?

Why didn't Harner tell the governor's people that he was investigated while at CV?

Why didn't the CV school board, upon hearing that Harner had been tapped to lead the entire state's educational effort, give the Corbett people a tip?

In May, CV School Board President Barbara Gleim raved to abc27 about Harner, knowing that he had been investigated for odd/wacky/bizarre/offensive comments and knowing the results of that investigation.

"Over the last five years," Gleim gushed after Harner was named Education Secretary, "Dr. Harner has raised the rigor at our school. He has raised our test scores."

Harner is now raising questions about the system and the governor.

"It tends to paint the administration not in the best light right now," Vance said.

Corbett supporters insist the governor was decisive in releasing Harner the minute unsavory news surfaced. 

Corbett critics will point out that Harner is the latest in what has been a handful of controversial selections for important cabinet posts.

As for Harner, he hopes to get back to work real soon. In his prepared statement Monday he said, "I look forward to continuing my work of improving education by returning to a school district in a future leadership role."

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