School Drug Counselor Is Fired In Wake Of 1996 Marijuana Raid
A drug counselor for Spokane public schools was fired this week, five months after detectives found 99 marijuana plants at her south Spokane home.
Janet L. Price was never charged. Her husband, Randall Price, who pleaded guilty to possessing the drug, was sentenced to 30 days of community service.
School District 81 administrators said they wouldn’t elaborate on the firing because Janet Price, who worked at Salk and Garry middle schools, plans to appeal their decision.
Price’s attorney called the firing, effective Wednesday, inappropriate and unfair.
“Janet had absolutely no knowledge of anything illegal happening on her property. She’s done nothing wrong,” said attorney Carl Oreskovich.
Mark Anderson, human resources director for the district, said earlier he worried about mixed messages the Nov. 12 drug seizure might send to students.
“Candidly, what a person does in their own life is personal business, but there is a connect here,” he said in a February interview.
The couple insisted Janet Price, 39, didn’t know about the 64 marijuana plants in a padlocked bedroom or the 35 plants in the cellars.
Detectives didn’t believe that and requested charges against her, said Deputy Prosecutor Sarah Beemer.
But Beemer refused, citing a lack of evidence. Detectives weren’t able to find Janet Price’s fingerprints on any of the grow equipment.
Detectives also suggested she would have smelled the marijuana, Beemer said.
But the spare bedroom next to the living room contained only smaller plants, which weren’t as pungent as the larger plants in the cellar, Beemer said.
“We just couldn’t get anything to show she was actively participating in growing the marijuana,” Beemer said.
“Common sense tells me she’d know if it were growing in her home, but we’re held by the standards of the law,” Beemer added. “And the law demands we prove beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that each person is actively involved in growing marijuana.”
Beemer also noted Randall Price’s reaction when detectives found the marijuana. “He said, ‘Oh, my God. My wife’s going to kill me.”’
Randall Price, 42, was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture marijuana.
His 30-day jail sentence imposed March 12 was converted to community service, so he spent no time behind bars, said Frank Cikutovich, his attorney.
Cikutovich said he believes that’s because Price had no previous felony record and was so cooperative.
“He walked into the prosecutor’s office and said, ‘I did it. It was the stupidest thing I ever did in my life.’ He said he was bankrupt. He was trying to get some money.”
Price was also fined $2,000 and placed on probation for a year.
The Prices petitioned for bankruptcy late last year for debts of $231,346, court records show.
Randall Price told detectives he’d earned about $600 by selling marijuana to a person he refused to identify, according to a court affidavit.
Janet Price couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. Oreskovich said he advised her not to talk about the case. Attempts to reach John Kostecka, Price’s union representative at the Spokane Education Association, were also unsuccessful.
Janet Price wasn’t a certified district employee, but counseled children about drug and alcohol abuse and family problems, Anderson said.
Randall Price, Janet’s husband of 18 years, was a District 81 teacher’s aide from 1988 to 1994. He worked in an auto body program at the vocational skills center.