Panel weighing issues in Dallemand arbitration

A panel of arbitrators has laid out the next steps in the showdown between former Bibb County school Superintendent Romain Dallemand and the school district.

According to a filing from the American Arbitration Association, a management conference was held May 19 to discuss a range of topics that included Dallemand’s right to retain an attorney, public access to the arbitration hearings and whether it should fall to the arbitration panel to decide on claims filed by both parties.

In January, Dallemand filed a $10 million claim with AAA, alleging that school board members had breached the terms of his severance agreement by committing “acts of libel and slander” against him. The school district responded with its own $7.5 million counterclaim, contending that Dallemand’s severance agreement was procured by fraud.

In his initial demand, Dallemand cited both a breach of contract as well as other claims that may or may not be within the arbitration panel’s jurisdiction.

The main question now is: Is it for the arbitration panel or a court to decide on the claims?

At the initial conference, Dallemand “indicated that it was his intention to dismiss” his claims that weren’t based on allegations that the school board breached the agreement, according to the arbitration’s latest filing.

Each party had until the end of day June 5 to file a brief on dismissing those claims.

The filing further stated, “In the event that any party elects not to dismiss such non-breach related claims,” both parties would have to file a brief by June 12 explaining their contentions as to “who (the panel or a court) is to decide this scope of the arbitration clause issue and why ... the panel has jurisdiction or not over such non-contractual breach claims.”

The opposing party would have until June 22 to respond.

After the initial conference, Dallemand decided to proceed without an attorney and filed a motion with the arbitration association on May 26 to strike the school board’s defenses or, in the alternative, require the board to provide a more “definite statement” of the defenses it cited in the counterclaim.

Among the school board’s defenses was that the severance agreement was procured by fraud.

The school board’s $7.5 million counterclaim said that total came from Dallemand’s “unauthorized purchases” that were discovered in an audit report from the accounting firm Mauldin & Jenkins a year ago.

That audit highlighted instances in which it said Dallemand had violated school board policy when ordering more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without prior board approval.

The school board forwarded a copy of the report to the state’s Professional Standards Commission, the state’s educator regulatory agency, along with other investigatory findings. That led to the revocation of Dallemand’s educator license last year.

Last month, The Telegraph asked the arbitration association for access to all hearings and conferences in the case.

The school does not oppose that request, but “Mr. Dallemand has not consented to such a request,” according to documents in the case obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act.

In response to The Telegraph’s request for access, Dallemand sent an email to the arbitration group saying he was “adamantly opposed” to the arbitration being open to the public, saying that would “engender a ‘circus’ atmosphere” and taint his right to due process.

The arbitration panel has given each party and The Telegraph an opportunity to submit a brief by June 10 citing arguments on access to the arbitration process.