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December 19, 2013 9:55:09 AM
The former chief financial officer for the Columbus Municipal School District has filed a wrongful termination claim.
Kenneth Hughes filed a tort claim alleging that he was wrongfully fired on May 12 by former superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell for "his having reported illegal activity which negatively affected school district finances for Columbus Municipal School District." Hughes filed the claim against the district on Dec. 10.
According to the claim, on April 22, less than two weeks before his firing, Hughes and his attorney, Marc Amos, met with Liddell and board attorneys David Dunn and Chris Hemphill. During the meeting, Hughes brought up three issues that he felt were illegal. According to the claim, Hughes informed the attorneys that janitorial and maintenance staff were paid for three-and-a-half days that they did not work, services were never provided for a purchase initiated by Dr. Martha Liddell to Power IT in the amount of $18,344, and an unfulfilled purchase initiated by Dr. Liddell to Grade Results, in the amount of $75,000. The claim says half of the money was paid, but services were never provided.
The claim also specifies several other missteps by district officials, including the misappropriation of $13,500 worth of copy paper.
Hughes was fired by Dr. Liddell, without explanation, 10 days after the meeting.
The tort claim was discussed during executive session during Monday night's school board meeting.
Hughes' new attorney, Dennis Horn of Madison, said he and his client are looking forward to hearing from the board.
"The whole point of the requirement of the administrative tort claim is to try to get the case settled short of litigation and we look forward to seeing what the school district's response is," Horn said.
Hughes is requesting $500,000 in damages, reinstatement of his employment with the district with back pay and benefits, front pay, purging all negative information in his personnel file and his attorney's fees.
In the claim, Hughes' attorney says by "being terminated from his employment for reporting crimes committed by the School District to the attorneys for the School District and the Superintendent has caused the claimant to suffer loss of pay and fringe benefits, loss of reputation, mental anguish and emotional distress due to lack of his job, incomes, health insurance, loss of pay increases, and loss of promotions."
Board president Jason Spears declined to comment, saying the matter was a personnel issue.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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