Bechtel drops lawsuit against Bibb school system

alopez@macon.comJanuary 24, 2014 

Gary Bechtel

A lawsuit filed by a then-Bibb County school board member who contended that his child’s privacy rights had been violated was dropped Friday.

Gary Bechtel, who served on the board for 12 years, filed a voluntary dismissal Friday in Bibb County Superior Court.

Bechtel, now a Macon-Bibb County commissioner, filed the lawsuit in 2012. It came in response to former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s release of Bechtel’s son’s school records through posts on the district’s website of emails that Bechtel had once sent.

“It was intentional and callous to hurt me and my family,” Bechtel said Friday. “My argument was never with the school system as a whole. It was with him personally.”

The school board bought out Dallemand’s contract 11 months ago.

Steve Smith, the district’s interim superintendent, said his understanding was that once Dallemand left, the school district assumed responsibility for any civil action against him in connection with his time on the job.

“We are very grateful to Mr. Bechtel for having this suit dismissed,” Smith said.

Smith said he understood Bechtel’s reasoning in filing the lawsuit, because he believed his child’s confidentiality had been breached. But because the school system was obligated to defend the lawsuit and pay any damages on behalf of Dallemand, the court battle would have only hurt the system.

“That money can be redirected toward the staff and students of Bibb County schools,” Smith said.

Bechtel’s attorney, Charles Cox, agreed with Smith’s statement.

“Dallemand has cost the taxpayers of Bibb County enough money already,” Cox said.

“We want to let this administration and current superintendent, who have demonstrated capable leadership, continue to try to work and repair the system from the many mistakes Superintendent Dallemand left with them,” Bechtel said.

Smith said he expects fees for work the school district’s lawyers already completed on the lawsuit will be forwarded to his office next week.

The conflict between Dallemand and Bechtel was just part of governance and leadership issues facing the school district by the end of Dallemand’s tenure.

Survey results released this month indicated that 83 percent of parents and teachers think the current administration provides effective leadership, Smith said. He also pointed to recent board of education officer elections that ran smoothly, compared to last year, when it took four months to elect officers.

“We have made great strides,” Smith said. “We have addressed the issues.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service