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School district settles with former superintendent

A former Missouri school superintendent's 5-year legal battle against the Liberty public school district concluded with a $950,000 settlement. The settlement agreement was unanimously approved by the district's board of education on Dec. 24. The former employee will receive $700,000 from the district's insurer and $250,000 from the district itself.

The former administrator had filed a wrongful termination suit in July 2009 stating that he had been forced to resign in April 2008. The lawsuit came to a close after a Missouri court struck down claims and defenses made by district, finding that it was in contempt of court for refusing to present documents as requested by the ex-superintendent and his counsel.

The plaintiff's legal team asserted the district was given plenty of opportunities to comply with the judge's orders. The lawyers alleged that the district was given more chances than most defendants to fulfill the plaintiff's demands. Sanctions were imposed on the district, which led to the settlement. A spokesperson for the district said that reaching a settlement was its best option and the most logical business decision, as too much time and energy had already been spent on the lawsuit and that its insurance coverage was about to lapse. The settlement agreement contains language denying any wrongdoing on the part of the district.

The original lawsuit contained allegations by the plaintiff that members of the district's board of education had abused district email policies. If the termination was made as a result of the plaintiff's reporting those wrongdoings, that could constitute a basis for a wrongful termination claim.

Source: Liberty Tribune, "District, Phil Wright agree to $950K settlement", Ryne Dittmer, January 02, 2014

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