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Former Head Of Blind Services Will Not Be Reinstated
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 27, 2006

HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA--Christine L. Boone, the former head of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services who successfully sued the agency for disability discrimination, will not be getting her old job back.

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo said that her own observations and testimony during the trial led her to believe that there is so much distrust between Boone and state Labor Secretary Stephen M. Schmerin that her placement with the agency would not be practical, the Associated Press reported.

A federal jury found in November that Schmerin and Stephen Nasuti, the former director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, improperly fired Boone on August 14, 2003. They were ordered to pay Boone $3 million for emotional distress, plus $180,000 in front pay and $175,000 in punitive damages.

Boone's attorney, Arch Y. Stokes, told the court that Nasuti fired Boone, 44, because she is blind and she strongly advocated for blind Pennsylvanians. Stokes said Nasuti deliberately set Boone up for minor infractions, refused to assign her a parking space in a safe pickup area -- even after she was accosted while waiting for a ride -- and failed to provide meeting agendas in Braille.

Nasuti fired Boone for insubordination after she refused to implement an approved policy -- which she believed was illegal -- regarding scholarships and school benefits for people with disabilities. The state argued that Boone had been fired because she could not be counted on to do her job.

An attorney for Schmerin, Nasuti, and the state said he would appeal the verdict.

Another of Boone's lawyers, Anne-Marie Mizel, said Boone was disappointed in Rambo's decision not to reinstate her.

"In any event, Chris looks forward to other opportunities to serve the blind and disabled community in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, as she has devoted her life to doing," Mizel said.


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