A former superintendent of Liberty Public Schools has been awarded nearly $1 million in the settlement of his wrongful-termination lawsuit.
By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS
The Kansas City Star
“It is good to move on,” said Phil Wright, who sued the district in July 2009. The case was dismissed Thursday.
Wright had been a teacher and then the administrator in charge of the district’s business office before becoming superintendent in July 2007. He left the district in April 2008, and at the time said he had resigned against his wishes after he refused to falsify documents.
He said Thursday that as part of the settlement agreement, which was reached last month, he could not discuss details of his departure from the district.
“It has been a long and a tough road. I’m happy we can put all this behind us,” Wright said, referring to himself and his two daughters.
Liberty school officials declined to comment on Thursday’s court action but referred to comments from Liberty school board members in a statement on the district’s website.
“This suit had the potential to drain additional financial resources and administrative time for years to come,” board president Scott Conner said in the statement. “The best way to protect our taxpayers and students was to seek resolution.”
Resolution of the suit came after Judge Anthony Rex Gabbert of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, ruled the district was in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents requested by Wright’s lawyers. The judge ordered the district to pay sanctions to Wright. The documents that had been requested included emails that school board members sent to one another from their home computers, according to a statement from Wright’s attorneys.
The case was settled and the documents were never produced, “so I don’t know what was in those emails,” Wright said.
According to the wrongful-termination lawsuit, school board members had asked Wright to provide false documentation to the Public School Retirement System of Missouri to show that the previous superintendent, William Scott Taveau, had worked fewer than 550 hours during one school year and was paid no more than 50 percent of his pre-retirement compensation. Taveau later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of deceptive business practices.
The district’s statement said it has “continued to deny any wrongdoing but agreed to participate in mediation in order to work toward a resolution.”
The settlement calls for the district’s insurance company to pay $700,000 to Wright and for the district to contribute $250,000.
“I know some people might feel like that is a lot of money,” Wright said. But his attorneys hired an economist to determine his losses over five years and “they calculated it at $1.6 million,” Wright said.
“Besides, I don’t get the whole $950,000,” he said.
Some of the money will go to lawyers, taxes and other legal expenses, Wright said.
Wright, who lives in Grain Valley, is retired from education and now works two part-time jobs doing building inspections and in the human resource department for an automotive and heavy-equipment parts company in Blue Springs.
To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.