The Bibb County school system says in a new court filing that it stripped former Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier from that job for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons and accuses Collier of lying about being punished.
Collier filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the school system in December, claiming he was punished for refusing to pay a $1 million invoice in July for the Macon Promise Neighborhood program because he thought it might be an illegal expenditure. Mondays filing is the first full school system response to Colliers claims.
The money ultimately was paid in October, after the school board approved paperwork saying the $1 million payment covered some renovation costs at the Promise Center, which is to host many of the programs of the Macon Promise Neighborhood effort.
In the months since, Collier revised the lawsuit several times, and both sides battled over a request for an injunction against Promise Center rent payments. A judge upheld the lease, saying it couldnt be challenged because it was part of a validated bond deal.
The school system denies many of the specifics in Colliers lawsuit, including whether the Promise Center has an illegal lease and whether it transferred Collier from a corner office to a room in the back of a warehouse, isolated from everyone.
But the school system also alleges Collier isnt telling the truth, making complaints that each are false or made with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.
The school system also says Collier would have had adverse employment actions taken against him, regardless of his lawsuit, because of other reasons, wrote a school system attorney, Benton J. Mathis Jr.
Colliers attorney, Jerry Lumley, said the school system has never said what, if anything, Collier did wrong. Lumley said the school system shouldnt accuse Collier of lying.
Ron Collier is one of the most honorable people Ive ever met, Lumley said. That (legal) defense is utterly offensive.
In the latest incarnation of Colliers lawsuit, he is asking for damages under a state whistle-blower law. He is also asking Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis to bar payments under the Promise Center lease through a permanent injunction. Ennis rejected a temporary restraining order for the lease because of the bond deal. The first payments are due by April 1, with the actual lease to begin July 1.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.