The Bibb County school system has reached a settlement with its former chief financial officer, who sued the system after he was demoted in December.
The school board agreed in a 6-2 vote to reinstate Collier as CFO and pay him $100,000. Board member Lester Miller made the motion to settle the case, and the board debated the issue for about 40 minutes.
Board members Ella Carter and Tom Hudson opposed the agreement. Hudson said the school system should have kept fighting the case in court.
This one lawsuit has changed the course of this district, Hudson said. It has caused us to lose a superintendent. We have lost just about every cabinet member that was part of that.
In his lawsuit, Collier alleged he was demoted and punished after asking questions related to the Macon Promise Neighborhood program. He initially refused to write to a nonprofit a $1 million check -- ordered by former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand -- that Collier thought might be illegal. An invoice did not say what the payment was for, and state law limits how school money can be spent.
Under the settlement, Collier agrees to dismiss his lawsuit and release the school system from any further liability. Collier already has signed the settlement, which says the $100,000 includes payment for personal injuries including anxiety, humiliation, pain and suffering, embarrassment, mental anguish and severe emotional distress.
In the lawsuit, Collier sought reinstatement as chief financial officer, attorneys fees, court costs and other damages. His salary -- $130,000 a year -- remained unchanged during the conflict.
In his whistle-blower suit, Collier contended that Dallemand pressured him to pay the $1 million invoice a week before a lease agreement had been signed for the Macon Promise Center on Anthony Road.
In its response to Colliers suit, the school system said it removed Collier from his CFO position for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons, and it accused him of lying about being punished. Collier initially was made administrator on special assignment, then later named director of capital assets. A job description wasnt created for the new position until weeks later.
The settlement says Collier will be paid by Friday and that he will dismiss the lawsuit no later than next week.
The agreement also blocks both sides from making any disclosure of any kind to any person, entity, or organization concerning the terms of the agreement, including the facts of the case.
Included in the agreement, however, is a statement that says, in part, that now that this matter has been resolved, the School District and Mr. Collier look forward to working together and providing the students of Bibb County with the best education possible. In order to do so, the School District and Mr. Collier believe that it is the best interest of all concerned for this matter to be put behind them.
The $1 million payment for the Macon Promise Center was ultimately paid after the school board approved paperwork saying it was covering renovation costs at the Macon Promise Center, which will host many of the programs of the Macon Promise Neighborhood effort. The center, in the former Ballard-Hudson Middle School, is not being used by the school system. Rent payments began in April.
Colliers efforts to get injunctions against rent payments and repairs were rejected when a judge said the Promise Center lease agreement supported a bond issue that couldnt legally be challenged because it already had been validated by a court.
Colliers lawsuit was one of the highest-profile legal legacies of Dallemands administration. A lawsuit by former school board President Gary Bechtel, alleging Dallemand released his sons personal information deliberately, is still pending.
Hudson told reporters the school system has now wrongly focused on settling lawsuits and bringing new people aboard. Dallemand himself was bought out of his months-old contract for $350,000.
Asked whether Collier was properly demoted, Hudson said he didnt consider a job change at the same pay to be a demotion. Asked whether Dallemand had properly changed Colliers job, Hudson said only, that was within his prerogative.
Board President Wanda West also wouldnt say whether Collier was properly demoted.
The majority of the board has agreed to move on, she said.
To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.