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WCEA files lawsuit against county BOE

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The Washington County Board of Education is preparing to face a lawsuit.

Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley informed the school board of a lawsuit filed by the Washington County Education Association on behalf of former Washington County School teacher Stacia Howard.

Howard’s contract was not renewed after five years of teaching drama at Gray Elementary. Howard addressed the board in June following the non-renewal, along with a parent and a former student in favor of reinstating Howard.

At the Oct. 5 meeting, Seeley told the board that the lawsuit refers to comments made during executive session and that he believes the information was leaked from a board member.

“It appears that information was breached from the allegations that were made,” Seeley said. “It also references comments made by the attorney, which was me, in executive session. It also references a comment in the open board meeting. It’s not clear from the complaint whether that’s from the executive session or the open board meeting. So that is a concern.”

When asked what the board could do about a possible breach in executive session, Seeley told the board that a board member can be excluded from executive session if he or she is believed to have breached information. He also said a litigation committee could be set up to where access to executive session information is limited.

Johnson City lawyer Earl Booze with Tennessee Municipal League will be representing the school board in the case. Seeley said Booze will be meeting with the board on the lawsuit in the near future.

WCEA also issued a complaint regarding the distribution of Professional Educators of Tennessee fliers.

At last month’s meeting, the board discussed Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton’s distribution of the PET fliers in the school system. Seeley said at the September meeting that Halliburton followed Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-606 (4) in regards to distribution.

The county attorney suggested that the board request to delay until they make a decision on possibly hiring an attorney who would act as the board’s exclusive lawyer. The board has discussed hiring a lawyer separate from the county attorney. No decision was made on an attorney at the meeting.