Pike BOE respond to lawsuit

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Pike County schools superintendent and Goshen principal filed court motions on Wednesday in response to residents’ efforts to halt the hiring of a new athletic director and football coach.

Mark Bazzell, superintedent, and Al Griffin, principal, filed multiple court motions, including a request that residents who petitioned the court be ordered to pay for damages caused as a result of Monday’s Pike County Board of Education meeting and seeking a stay against the pending hearing.

At that meeting, a group of Goshen residents attended and protested the duo’s recommendation that Mike McCombs be hired as the new athletic director and football coach at Goshen High School. The group had filed a petition earlier that day with the Circuit Court, seeking to stop the school board’s vote on the hiring and claiming that Bazzell, Griffin and members of the school board had violated the Open Meetings Act in discussing the potential vote and hiring.

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Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas and Goshen Town Clerk Traci Shaver were among the petitioners.

The court did grant a temporary injunction and agreed to set a hearing within 10 days of that order.

The defendants Superintendent Bazzell and GHS Principal Griffin, through attorney Richard Calhoun, have asked first for “stay of proceedings” to have adequate time to defend the complaints against them.

The motion reads that Bazzell and Griffin had no knowledge of the court ordered injunction restricting the vote until after the board meeting had started at 5:30 p.m., and Calhoun did not have receive court documents until the following day.

In addition to this motion, the defendants have made a motion seeking damages from having these allegations brought against them in an open meeting and carried by “Montgomery, Alabama television stations.”

“The action of the plaintiffs in filing a sworn complaint in this court based on false statements made under oath to obtain an injunction from this court barring a lawful governmental body, the Pike County Board of Education and its superintendent, from conducting its lawful business and charging dedicated public officials with committing violations of the Alabama Open Meetings Act … is so outrageous that it justifies the award of compensatory and punitive damages,” the motion filed in the Pike County Circuit Court reads.

The defendants have also asked that all judges within the Twelfth Judicial Circuit recuse themselves from hearing this case, since Thomas works with them on a regular basis.

“Because … the defendants are seeking an award of substantial damages, costs and attorney’s fees to be paid by the plaintiffs in this matter, including Sheriff Russell Thomas, the defendants request that all judges serving in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit recuse themselves …” the motion reads.

Bazzell and Griffin both refused to comment on the case.

“My statement would be it’s pending litigation, and neither the board nor I are going to comment,” Bazzell said.

Calhoun could not be reached for comment and plaintiff’s attorney, Matt Baker, said he had nothing to say at this time.

The hearing ordered through the injunction is set to be called within 10 days of Monday’s meeting, unless the court rules differently based on Calhoun’s motion.