Dallemand’s legal fights to continue, despite severance provisions

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 26, 2013 

Former Bibb County school Superintendent Romain Dallemand could find his way to several Bibb County courtrooms and deposition tables, despite Monday’s school board vote to buy him out and cover his legal costs involving any civil or criminal cases.

Dallemand’s severance package even highlighted three particular court cases. One of them is likely to expand in the coming days, as legal complaints about the severance package may be added to existing complaints about Dallemand’s employment contracts.

Charles E. Cox Jr., the attorney for Lizella parent Brad DeFore, said he expects to broaden DeFore’s lawsuit again, which has centered on the employment contracts.

“We’re looking at the severance package to see if some aspects of that need to be added to the suit,” said Cox, who is alleging that the severance package was made on top of employment contracts that are invalid.

Cox declined to discuss specifics Tuesday. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” he said.

Other parts of DeFore’s case involve asking a judge to declare the contracts invalid and seeing whether the school system followed the Open Meetings Act when it voted publicly on Dallemand’s contract without including important provisions of it in the motion. Among the items left out was a single year of salary and benefits if the contract were ended.

Dallemand is being added, personally, as a defendant to DeFore’s case.

The severance package gives Dallemand somewhat more than the latest contract calls for. Under that contract, Dallemand was to get $198,000 salary, a year of benefits, and a $70,000 annual credit for the two years he served. Instead, Dallemand several additional months of benefits and $350,000 cash, about $12,000 more than he would have earned under the contract.

Both employment contracts called for the school system to cover any civil court costs Dallemand incurred in the course of his duties. They did not include protection in criminal cases. Both contracts said the legal protection continued after the contracts expired.

Separately, Dallemand is also expected to play a major role in former Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier’s whistle-blower lawsuit against the school district. Collier’s attorney, Jerry Lumley, said the school system hired Dallemand and put him in a position where he had power over Collier, who alleges he was punished because he resisted Dallemand’s pressure to write a $1 million check for purposes that might have been illegal.

“Obviously, though, Dr. Dallemand will be questioned and will have to give a deposition in that case and will be a central figure in that lawsuit,” Lumley said.

Lumley is also an attorney for former school board member Gary Bechtel, who is suing Dallemand personally -- but not the school system -- based on allegations that Dallemand released private information about Bechtel’s son.

Bechtel said Tuesday he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Lumley yet, but he said the case remains in place. With the school system offering legal protection to Dallemand, a victory that won damages would harm the school system Bechtel was representing just two months ago.

“That was never my intention,” Bechtel said. “I’ve got to consult Mr. Lumley to see what direction we take.”

Bechtel was critical of parts of the severance package, saying it made no sense for the school board to lump the cases together. He wasn’t alone in his criticism.

Lumley, who has served as the Bibb County school board’s attorney before, said he’d never seen a school system indemnify a superintendent against legal costs in criminal cases. Both of Dallemand’s legal contracts specifically excluded coverage of criminal matters.

Cox said it was unusual for the school board to settle with a superintendent while legal cases are pending, and just a few months after the school board extended a new contract.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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