There was never a doubt.

There was never a doubt.

The attorney for Carla Hale, fired from a 19-year career as a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School after her same-sex relationship came to light earlier this year, said last week his client definitely will seek binding arbitration with the Diocese of Columbus in an effort to win back her job.

"There is no question that we're going to pursue that," Thomas Tootle said.

He represents Hale, who was dismissed March 13 after diocesan officials concluded her relationship with her partner violated a morality clause in both her employment contract and the collective bargaining agreement of the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators.

Hale's relationship with her partner was revealed to diocesan officials in an anonymous letter from someone who spotted the partner's name in an obituary for Hale's mother.

In a June 11 press release announcing that Lucia McQuaide, superintendent of schools for the diocese, had denied Hale's request for reinstatement as a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson, Tootle had indicated she had two weeks to decide the question of binding arbitration.

That hasn't been done yet, Tootle said later in the week, but it will be within the time frame.

This is in spite of the possibility, the attorney said, of Hale incurring major expenses in paying for half of the services of a professional from the American Arbitration Association. The association can charge anywhere from $150 to $800 an hour for the services of an arbitrator, Tootle said.

A somewhat similar case in Cincinnati in which a teacher was dismissed from a Catholic school after having a child out of wedlock involved a hearing that lasted three days, he said.

Normally, the cost of binding arbitration would be split between the diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, Tootle said.

However, on May 13, Hale called a press conference to announce the professional association that represents teachers in the diocese declined to back her in her fight to get back the position she'd held at Watterson for nearly two decades.

Tootle said arrangements already have been made to start the process rolling with the American Arbitration Association.

"This is truly a neutral arbitration organization," Tootle said. "It's not a bunch of Catholic nuns."

The American Arbitration Association is a nonprofit organization with offices throughout the U.S., according to its website.

It has a long history and experience in alternative dispute resolution, providing services to individuals and organizations who wish to resolve conflicts out of court, the website says.

The association will provide a list of seven candidates to serve as the arbitrator between the diocese and Hale, Tootle said. Each side may strike three of those names until the last one remaining gets the job, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

"At that point, the time frames would be governed by the decision of the arbitrator," Tootle said.

Proceedings could begin in weeks, or could take up to a year to start, he added.

The diocese is required to participate in binding arbitration under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, according to the attorney.

"That decision's already been made," Tootle said.