Payson High School’s vice principal nearly found himself in hot water after sending a “threatening” text message to the school board’s president last month.
On April 12, the night the school board officially did not renew his contract a year before his anticipated retirement, Vice Principal Tim Fruth went out with a group of family and friends to Chili’s after the board meeting.
At Chili’s, Fruth reportedly sent Payson Unified School District President Rory Huff a text message stating, “This means war. Hope you sleep well,” according to a police report.
On April 13, Huff contacted Police Chief Don Engler and said he had received what he thought was a threat on his cell phone from Fruth.
Engler called Sgt. Jason Hazelo, who started an investigation.
Hazelo contacted Huff who agreed to meet at the PPD and discuss the previous night’s event. At the police station, Huff said that he felt threatened by the text message, according to the police report.
After speaking with Huff, Hazelo went to Fruth’s home and spoke with him on his front porch.
“Mr. Fruth stated that the night that this had occurred, he had been drinking with friends and by his statement, “this means war,” was that the papers were contacting him and wanted a statement as to his beliefs as to why (the school board) had let him go,” the police report states.
Fruth said by no means was he physically threatening Huff, but rather through the newspapers, it was a “war” of words.
Fruth was not arrested and the town attorney declined prosecution.
Fruth was put on paid administrative leave from April 14 through April 20, according to PUSD Superintendent Casey O’Brien.
O’Brien could not disclose why Fruth was placed on leave since it is a personnel matter, but said the action was non-disciplinary.
“Mr. Fruth returned to his regular duties immediately following the administrative leave,” O’Brien said.
In an e-mail, PHS Principal Roy Sandoval said of the incident that, “the whole thing was completely blown out of proportion. Mr. Fruth and Mr. Huff have been friends for several years. They have called each other by cell about school-related things many, many times.
“There is absolutely no reason that Mr. Huff should have been advised to take something like this to the police. Most of the time if you don't understand a text message from a friend you go ahead and call them and ask.
“The right thing to do was simply get the two together so one could find out the other was being tongue-and-cheek. I’m not condoning Mr. Fruth’s message or timing. I am saying that the response was disproportionate, not well thought out and waste of police investigation and town attorney time.”
Fruth said he could not comment on the incident. Huff did not return an e-mailed request for comment as of press time.