A Bibb County resident contends in a lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court that a December vote by the school board to extend Superintendent Romain Dallemands contract through 2015 violated the states open meetings law.
Because of the alleged breach of Georgias sunshine laws, Thomas Bradley DeFore seeks a declaratory judgment that the vote from the meeting be declared null and void.
If the courts decide to throw out Dallemands current contract with the school board, the superintendent would be working under his old contract, which expires June 30, 2013.
But DeFores lawsuit also asks the court to stop the school system from paying Dallemands salary under the terms of both the current and former contracts.
The lawsuit maintains that both contracts violated rules in the states Constitution prohibiting new debt without a vote of the taxpayers. It also argues the terms of the most recent contract compensates Dallemand more than the board approved.
I think the court is the only one who can hold the school district accountable, said Charlie Cox, DeFores attorney in the case. I dont think you can expect the board to undo something they themselves have already done.
On Dec. 3, the board voted to renew the superintendents contract in a 5-3 vote, with board members Tom Hudson, Ella Carter, Wanda West, Tommy Barnes and Susan Middleton approving the measure. Lynn Farmer, Sue Sipe and Gary Bechtel voted against it. Barnes, Middleton and Bechtel are no longer serving on the school board.
Dallemand accepted the contract extension offer Dec. 7.
The contract offer board members approved, which took effect Jan. 1, provides Dallemand with an annual base pay of $198,000. Thats the same amount he made in his previous contract.
He also will receive $70,000 for every year of service to Bibb County when his contract expires Dec. 31, 2015, or if he is fired without cause. Other perks include a $1 million life insurance policy and an $800 monthly car allowance, double his previous allowance.
The school system did not return a call for comment on the lawsuit late Monday afternoon. Farmer said she had not seen the lawsuit, and other current board members who voted on the contract extension could not be reached.
DeFores lawsuit takes issue with both when the agenda for that meeting was released to the public and the contents of the agenda itself.
School officials released the agenda to the public on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 30.
That was done with the intent to mislead and deceive the public about the intentions of the Board to conduct a public vote, according to the lawsuit.
The Dec. 3 agenda indicated the board would meet in executive session, which is closed to the public, but the agenda did not indicate the contract vote would take place that day.
During the week of Nov. 26, Barnes told one or more board members that the board would meet as early as Dec. 3 to consider Dallemands contract, according to the lawsuit. Cox said board members had already been discussing a contract extension and should have told the public if they planned to vote on it.
Along with the questions raised about the transparency of the meeting, DeFores lawsuit claims the school boards attorney issued Dallemand a contract that provides the superintendent with more perks than the board agreed to Dec. 3.
Those include more sick leave and vacation days, a less restrictive expense reimbursement policy and a cell phone and computer that were not discussed before the school board voted on the contract extension. Dallemands 2011 contract did, however, provide for a school-system issued cell phone and computer.
Another term not agreed upon at the meeting, according to the lawsuit: If the school board ends Dallemands contract before it expires in December 2015, he is entitled to a full years salary and benefits. The minutes from the Dec. 3 meeting do not show the school board approved the full years salary and benefits.
Paying that money alone would cost the system more than $300,000, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also maintains that by executing Dallemands current contract, the school system bound itself to new debt, or financial obligations beyond a single fiscal year. The lawsuit indicates that violates the state Constitution.
The current school board budget has not allocated funds to pay the entire value of the 2013 contract, the lawsuit states. The litigation contends that the same argument applies to Dallemands previous contract.
State law does allow school boards to offer superintendents contracts for up to three years, but Cox said Georgias Constitution supersedes state law.
DeFores lawsuit also takes issue with a clause in Dallemands contract that provides Dallemand with $70,000 for every year of service to Bibb County when his contract expires on Dec. 31, 2015, or if he is fired without cause.
The lawsuit contends that provision also violates the state Constitutions gratuity clause, which states that public officials cannot receive compensation for services theyve already performed.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 9:30 a.m. in Bibb County Superior Court, Cox said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.