The president of the Springboro Board of Education and a former board official are accused of contriving a scheme to block the hiring of a teacher because of her political stand on a past levy, the former superintendent of the district said in a new federal court filing in US District Court in Cincinnati.
Tammy Grigsby originally filed the lawsuit in September 2012. In an amended complaint filed last week, Grigsby accuses board member Kelly Kohls and former human resources director George Long of creating a scheme to hide that they didn’t want to hire her to be a math teacher in the district. The complaint asserts that Grigsby was the first choice for the job but that Kohls orchestrated a plan requiring a third round of interviews and the selection of a new candidate for the job. The motivation, the complaint alleges, was to keep Grigsby from being hired because of an earlier conflict related to her work with a parent group that advocated for levy passage.
Former Superintendent Gene Lolli, who quit the district over a difference of philosophy with the board, said he continued to push for Grigsby’s hiring until Kohls, then acting school board president, personally directed him to remove her from a list of teachers to be hired, according to the documents.
“Gene, we have enough disrespectful teachers here, we don’t need any more disrespectful teachers being hired and plus, Gene, she’s too political. We don’t need any more teachers like her,” Kohls — acting as board president at the time — allegedly said to Lolli in June 2012, according to the affidavit.
The amended complaint filed by lawyers Christian Jenkins and Niroshan Wijesooriya also on Grigsby’s behalf claims board actions against Grigsby and in other cases comprise “a pattern and practice of retaliation at Springboro Schools.”
Jim Rigano, David Petroni, Kohls and Long are named in the amended complaint. Rigano, Petroni and Long referred questions to the board’s lawyers. Kohl’s didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“We disagree that there was any kind of conspiracy,” said Gary Winters, a lawyer for the school district. “We think that the facts are otherwise.”
Long and Kohls are accused individually of conspiracy, defamation, invasion of privacy, interference with employment and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Long urged Lolli to remove Grigsby from consideration, although she had been offered the job in anticipation of her hiring after a board vote, according to the lawsuit.
“I’m going to need your help on this. The board doesn’t want her,” Lolli’s affidavit alleges Long said.
Rather than conduct more interviews as a way to eliminate Grigsby, as Long suggested, Lolli said he argued she still should be hired, despite the board’s objections.
“In fact, I used an expletive,” Lolli said in the affidavit.
Grigsby chaired Neighbors for Springboro Schools, a political action committee supporting an additional tax levy in 2010, the last of five consecutive issues for new money rejected by district voters. Before her election, Kohls and Grigsby were involved in a dispute about Kohls’ participation in a candidates’ forum that was to be sponsored by the Neighbors for Springboro Schools.
On July 1, Magistrate Judge Karen L. Litkovitz is scheduled to hold a telephone conference with lawyers in the case.
Grigsby is seeking the teaching position, back pay, damages and court costs, well as a court order barring the board from “similar conduct in the future.”