A Common Pleas Court judge Monday removed a stay that had kept a whistle-blower's suit against a Kensington charter on hold for three years and said the suit could move forward.
The case involves Adorable Harper, a former administrator at Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School, who alleges she was wrongfully fired the day after the school was raided by federal agents in August 2009.
Harper had alerted federal authorities of alleged financial wrongdoing at the school a month earlier.
In the suit, Harper, a 1999 Community graduate who became an assistant chief operating officer there, alleged that Community officials retaliated against her because she had lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education detailing "a pattern of criminal misuse of local, state, and federal funds" at the school.
A month after she e-mailed her allegations to a federal hotline, more than a dozen agents appeared at Community and a related nonprofit and spent the day collecting documents and copying computer hard drives.
Harper filed the suit in January 2010.
The case had been on hold since the following April, pending the outcome of the federal probe. Top charter officials named in Harper's suit had asked the court for the stay because they said the civil case would compromise their ability to defend themselves in the criminal investigation.
Earlier this spring, Harper's lawyers asked the court to lift the stay and allow the case to proceed.
"Now, nearly three years later, any possible justification for a stay has clearly disappeared," they wrote in a March filing.
In their response, attorneys representing Community's top officials urged the court to continue the stay because the federal investigation remains active.
As evidence, they submitted an affidavit from an administrator's defense attorney that said the assistant U.S. attorney overseeing the probe told him in mid-March "the investigation is ongoing."
After a brief hearing Monday, Common Pleas Court Judge Nitza I. Quinones-Alejandro issued an order lifting the stay.
"We're pleased with the result," said Dave Frankel, one of Harper's attorneys. "We think it's the correct legal interpretation, and we're now proceeding with discovery."
Attorneys for Community officials declined to comment.