Appeals court reverses Wright's wrongful termination verdict

August 23, 2013 10:12:08 AM

Sarah Fowler - sfowler@cdispatch.com

 

Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Lynn Wright said he will appeal an appellate court's ruling that he was justly fired from his position as principal of New Hope High School in 2010. 

 

On Tuesday, the Municipal Appellate Court in Jackson reversed Lowndes County Chancery Court Judge Dorothy Colom's ruling that Wright was unjustly fired for his involvement with the purchase of a John Deere lawnmower by then-baseball coach Stacy Hester. The court also reversed Colom's decision to award Wright $175,000 in back pay. 

 

"It's disappointing but it just goes to the next level now," Wright said. 

 

In 2009, former Superintendent Mike Halford discovered Hester, the longtime New Hope High School baseball coach, had purchased the mower without board approval in 2007. Wright was serving as principal of the school when the alleged infraction occurred. Halford claimed the purchase of the mower was illegal and recommended the school board terminate both Hester and Wright. 

 

Both were fired on May 17, 2010. 

 

In October 2011, Wright and Hester filed wrongful termination suits against the district and alleged they were fired not for the incident with the mower but because of personality conflicts between Halford and former LCSD board president Dr. Robert Buckley. Buckley's son played baseball under Hester. 

 

In May 2012, Colom ruled in favor of Wright and awarded him $175,000 in back pay. She ruled that Hester was justly fired. The school board voted to appeal Colom's ruling regarding Wright and it was taken to the appellate court.  

 

In the wake of Tuesday's ruling, Wright said he hopes the case will go to the Mississippi Supreme Court. While he is disappointed in the appellate court's decision, Wright said he has "confidence it will all work out in the end." 

 

Hester also appealed Colom's decision to the appellate court. The court upheld Colom's decision in that case.

Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah