The saga in the million-dollar arbitration clash between former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand and the Bibb County school district has taken another turn.
As of July 21, Dallemand — who had previously represented himself — is now being represented by Edward Buckley and Rachel Berlin of The Buckley Law Firm, based in Atlanta, according to documents obtained through an Open Records Act request.
Dallemand filed a $10 million claim with the American Arbitration Association in January, contending that school board members had violated provisions of his severance agreement. The same Atlanta law firm also drafted that agreement.
Neither Buckley nor Berlin could be reached for comment. A confidentiality order imposed by the arbitrators prevents any comment from the school district.
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Additionally, the discovery period in the case is set to take place from Aug. 31 to Dec. 30, according to an order from the association’s arbitrators.
Similar to discovery in a lawsuit, the process is for both parties to conduct document exchanges, interrogatories and depositions. So far, the filing fees paid earlier this year — $14,900 by Dallemand and $10,250 paid by the board — have covered only administrative costs.
Those fees do not include the cost of the arbitrators, which can range from $350 to $450 an hour and, as of June 30, have reached almost $25,000 for the district, according to an invoice from the arbitration association.
The allegations set out in Dallemand’s initial claim were that school board members had “flagrantly and intentionally" breached the terms of his severance agreement and committed “acts of libel and slander” against him.
That agreement paid him $350,000, with language that board members released him of “all claims, known and unknown” and not “disparage or impugn” his work or reputation.
As evidence that school board members had violated the agreement, he pointed to an audit presented to the board after his departure from the district. The audit alleged that Dallemand had violated school board policy when he ordered more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without the prior approval of the board.
That audit was sent to the state’s educator regulatory agency, the Professional Standards Commission, and that led to the revocation of Dallemand’s certification.
In response to his arbitration claim, the school board filed its own $7.5 million counterclaim in February.
The board claimed that Dallemand’s severance agreement was procured by fraud, rendering it void and unenforceable because it would have required the board to do “unethical and illegal things.”
However, the association’s arbitrators dismissed the counterclaim, saying that it was beyond its jurisdiction.
In its order last month, the arbitration panel wrote, “None of (the school board’s) three counterclaims is for breach of contract.” The panel also said that the board’s “void and unenforceable” argument is a valid defense to Dallemand’s claim, but that it cannot be used as a counterclaim in arbitration.
To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382 or you can find him on Twitter @davidcschick.