Next month, a Lizella man will ask a Bibb County superior court judge to invalidate Superintendent Romain Dallemand's employment contract.
Brad DeFore, through attorney Charles Cox, filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon. He said he filed the suit as a concerned tax payer and a parent whose children attended Bibb schools.
The suit makes three main arguments. First, it says the school board violated the open meetings act when they voted on the contract on December third. That's because the vote took place after a closed-door session in a public setting; however the meeting's agenda didn't indicate there would be a public vote.
Cox says he believes the board intended to mislead the public, because they posted notice of the meeting just hours after Lester Miller and Jason Downey-- then board members-elect-- sent a letter asking to participate in the contract deliberations.
"The fact that they didn't advertise a public vote, especially in light of the request by these two new board members to participate highlights the effort to keep secret what they were planning to do," said Cox.
Second, the terms of the contract on which the board voted are spelled out in the meeting's minutes. Cox says some of those terms don't match up with the contract the superintendent actually signed days later.
For example, the suit reads, "Paragraph 9(d) of the 2013 Contract provides that 'Upon termination of this Agreement by the Board, the Superintendent shall receive a full year's annual base salary and benefits (i.e., health, dental, vision, disability, life and other forms of insurance protection; annuity; and other employee benefits).' The Board vote on December 3, 2012 did not authorize payment of a full year's annual base salary and benefits upon termination of the Contract. The inclusion in the 2013 Contract of this provision alone, which was not authorized by the Board's December 3, 2012 vote, increased the monetary obligations of the School District under the contract in excess of $300,000.00."
Cox says there are also discrepancies in sick leave days, annual leave days, and the superintendent's reimbursement limit.
"It's basic contract law," said Cox. "You have an offer and you have an acceptance, and your acceptance has to be of what was offered but here, the acceptance added terms that the board never voted on. So it's not a contract. The president of the board didn't have the authority to execute that on behalf of the board."
Lastly, Cox says the contract doesn't comply with a provision in the Georgia constitution that prohibits local entities from entering contracts that obligate the entity to pay debts beyond the year in which the contract was entered. However, Cox says these multi-year contracts are common for school districts.
"I think that it is common that school districts simply ignore the constitutional prohibition on those types of contracts because they feel like it's necessary for them to attract superintendents," said Cox. "The school district typically doesn't have an interest in contesting that, nor does the superintendent, who is the beneficiary of the contract. And I think these types of contracts aren't challenged typically because there's not a tax payer like Mr. DeFore who's willing to come forward to try to enforce the law."
Cox says they won't settle for anything less than this contract being void, and any new contract has to comply with the law. There's a hearing scheduled for a preliminary injunction on February 1.