Florida judge dismisses Dallemand lawsuit against Mauldin & Jenkins

Romain Dallemand in the conference room adjacent to his office at the Bibb County School Board offices in this photo from January 2012.
Romain Dallemand in the conference room adjacent to his office at the Bibb County School Board offices in this photo from January 2012. Telegraph file photo

A Florida judge dismissed former Bibb County school Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s lawsuit against a Macon accounting firm on Friday.

Dallemand filed his complaint against Mauldin & Jenkins in Collier County, Florida, in early February. He contended that the firm defamed him with “false, scandalous (and) surreal” statements during an audit presentation to the Bibb County school board.

William Newcomb, an attorney for Mauldin & Jenkins, moved to dismiss the case based on a legal doctrine that gives courts the option not to hear a case when there is a more appropriate venue.

“Obviously, M&J vehemently denies any wrongdoing or liability, but that’s a different argument for a different day, hopefully for a different court,” Newcomb told the judge, according to an audio recording of the proceeding that The Telegraph obtained.

Newcomb also said that by filing the lawsuit in Florida, Dallemand was “asking taxpayers to foot the bill for this court’s supervision” for a case that was “utterly unconnected with this state’s interest.”

A day before the hearing, Dallemand hired attorney Michael Shienvold to represent him. For all of his previously submitted complaints, Dallemand represented himself.

“There is no reason why this case has to be litigated in Bibb County,” Shienvold told the court. He added that because of the contention during Dallemand’s tenure as superintendent, Dallemand would be “much better served” by having the case litigated in Florida.

“I will, pretty quickly, dispose of this by saying that the motion to dismiss and/or to transfer to Bibb County, Georgia, is appropriate and should be granted,” Judge Hugh Haynes said after listening to arguments for about 10 minutes. “Based on pleadings, whether there is a merit to the lawsuit or not is really almost a secondary issue. But when you look at the residency of the parties and you look at the forum non conveniens criteria, clearly it would be a stretch.”

Phones messages left for the attorneys for Mauldin & Jenkins and Dallemand Friday were not returned.

The audit report, which Dallemand alleges defamed him, was presented to the school board in February 2014. The report claimed Dallemand had repeatedly violated school board policy during his time as superintendent by ordering more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without the required prior approval of the board.

The audit and other investigatory findings were later forwarded to the state’s Professional Standards Commission, Georgia’s educator regulatory agency, which ultimately lead to the revocation of his educator license.

This lawsuit represented the latest in legal actions by Dallemand. The other is a $10 million arbitration claim filed against the school board in January in his effort to combat both Bibb County and state investigations of his actions while he was superintendent.

Dallemand also requested that the arbitration proceedings take place in Florida, but that request was also denied.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.