Arbitrator upholds firing of SWIC instructor who made alleged Facebook threat

News-DemocratMay 7, 2014 

— An outside arbitrator has upheld the Southwestern Illinois College trustees' decision to fire a tenured history instructor for insubordination after a pair of December 2011 incidents, one of which included the instructor allegedly threatening co-workers via a Facebook posting.

During a hearing a hearing held Jan. 18, the instructor, Patrick McGarrity, 49, denied making any threats.

McGarrity's hearing was opened to the public at McGarrity's insistence. A News-Democrat reporter attended the six-hour hearing.

Neither McGarrity nor his attorney, Ed Szewczyk of Granite City, could be reached for comment about the arbitrator's decision issued April 25.

In addition, McGarrity argued during the hearing that he should be allowed to keep his job because the first incident -- an altercation with a fellow instructor and a dean -- stemmed from the fact he suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is a chronic mental health disorder linked to life-threatening events, such as natural disasters, crimes and combat in war zones. McGarrity testified his PTSD resulted from violence he suffered as a Catholic growing up during the 1970s and early 1980s in Protestant-controlled Northern Ireland.

Garret Hoerner, the SWIC Board of trustees attorney, declined to comment.

Mike Fleming, a SWIC spokesman, issued this statement:

"We prefer not to comment on the situation beyond what was conveyed in the public hearings. As for Mr. McGarrity's employment status with SWIC, it remains terminated as per the hearing outcome."

SWIC declined to release a copy of St. Louis-based arbitrator Jerome Diekemper's ruling.

During the January hearing, McGarrity's psychiatrist, who was picked by SWIC, testified that McGarrity's mental health problems were being successfully treated with the help of medication and counseling and that he should be allowed to return to work.

The SWIC trustees voted to fire McGarrity during a September 2013 board meeting. McGarrity has been on paid on paid leave since August 2011. Since then he has earned nearly $238,000 in salary and other compensation through January 2014, SWIC records show.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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