Todd McDaniel, a former employee of the Hazlehurst City School District, is suing the district for more than $1.5 million, court documents indicate.
The lawsuit, filed April 11, alleges McDaniel was improperly terminated and denied a hearing on that decision.
In July 2017, McDaniel signed a contract with the school district to be employed as director of operations with a salary of $83,739.93, the lawsuit says, and he signed a second contract as high school coach and athletic director, for salaries of $8,000 and $10,000, respectively.
The Mississippi High School Football Historical Society’s online records show McDaniel coached the Hazlehurst Indians between 2008 and 2010, then from 2014 to 2018. A 2011 article from the Copiah County Courier indicates McDaniel also coached at Alcorn State University for some time.
Last year, Superintendent Cloyd Garth Jr. sent a letter to McDaniel informing him that the district was not renewing his employment for the 2018 to 2019 school year, according to court documents. The reason cited was “positional restructuring at the district level.”
The lawsuit hints that McDaniel believes he was terminated for a different reason — in retaliation “for speaking out to members of the Board of Trustees…and the Superintendent about matters of public concern.” Court documents do not specify what the “matters of public concern” were.
The Clarion Ledger reached McDaniel by phone. He directed questions to his attorney, who could could not be immediately reached for contact.
The school district also did not respond to a Clarion Ledger request for comment.
The superintendent’s letter about McDaniel’s nonrenewal of employment was dated April 13, 2018, and he received the notice on April 16 or 17, the lawsuit says.
In May, the district offered him a contract for a different position, director of facilities, which “amounted to a demotion” and would take away some legal protections, the lawsuit says.
Twice McDaniel asked for a hearing before the school board, and his request was denied. The hearing request denial, signed by the superintendent, cited “guidelines as outlined within district policy,” court documents indicate.
McDaniel was terminated on June 18, 2018, documents say.
The lawsuit says McDaniel lost wages of $101,740 and retirement benefits, insurance and more. The loss of his job also caused emotional distress, court documents say.
The lawsuit alleges the district violated state law when superintendent made a decision to not renew McDaniel’s contract without a board vote and refused to grant McDaniel a hearing.
It also alleges that because McDaniel received the notice of nonrenewal a day or two after a deadline set in state statute, his contract should have automatically rolled over to the next year.
McDaniel is asking for a jury trial. He wants to be awarded back pay for the 2018 to 2019 school year in addition to compensatory and punitive damages totaling $1.5 million.
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