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Riley murder trial tops docket

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Staff Writer
Former Escambia County superintendent Dr. Margaret Breland-Bradley has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit against the county school board citing reasons of discrimination based on sex and race.
In the lawsuit, Bradley makes claims against board members Steven McGill, Janice Ash, Danny Benjamin, Jack Crutchfield, Michael Goolsby, Willie J. Grissett and Richard Hawthorne in their official capacity as school board members. It also cites former board members A.D. Johnson and James Dukes.
Bradley is also suing current and former board members Johnson, Ash, Goolsby and Dukes individually.
The actions are being brought against the school board and its members for allegedly committing acts which deprived Bradley of rights guaranteed her by the U.S. Constitution, U.S. law and the laws of the State of Alabama.
In a claim filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Alabama, Southern Division, Bradley accuses the defendants of denying her right to be free of "arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory decision making, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment." The suit was filed by Bradley's attorney Ronnie L. Williams of Mobile.
Bradley was hired by the school board in September, 1998. The school board voted to not renew Bradley's contract as superintendent by a 4-3 vote on April 20, 2000.
She seeks an injuncture requiring the Escambia County Board of Education to reinstate her at the superintendent position with full back pay and benefits, including vacation pay.
She also seeks compensatory damages against the board and individual defendants in the amount of $1 million and punitive damages against the individual defendants for $1 million. She also seeks reimbursement for any costs and expenses of bringing the lawsuit.
According to the documentation filed with the district court, Bradley was told her contract would be extended at the end of her initial two-year contract. She also claims interference by board members in carrying out her responsibilities as superintendent.
Alabama state law prohibits members of a county board of education from giving instructions directly to employees of the school system, or involving themselves in the day-to-day operation of the school system. These responsibilities are reserved for the superintendent.
The claim cites a specific example alleged by the plaintiff involving an attempt to reorganize the central office by cross-training to increase efficiency. The incident occurred on Oct. 15, 1999, according to the claim.
According to the claim, Goolsby went on to accuse Bradley of harassing Corbin because of the superintendent's request that she keep a record of her work time.
Bradley alleges that she made the request of that employee based on School Board Attorney Susan Reeves' suggestion as it pertained to another issue faced by the school system.
According to the motion filed, by state law, all actions of the board are to be based on recommendations of the superintendent. Bradley claims the board "repeatedly acted independent of the superintendent's recommendation. Individual board members would routinely give directives to members of the superintendent's staff, clearly overstepping their authority and also creating confusion and discord amongst staff members."
The motion claims that several board members "encouraged central office staff to file grievances against the superintendent, and invited staff members to call board members at home if they had any complaints regarding the superintendent and her management of the school system."
Bradley alleges that Corbin filed 18 grievances against her at the request of several school board members. According to the claim, all of those grievances were resolved in favor of Bradley upon investigations by board attorney Broox Garrett and a hearing supervised by board attorney Susan Reeves.
The claim states that in Garrett's written report regarding these problems he cited "subtle racial overtones" was one factor motivating much of the discord and hostility among staff members.
Prior to the end of the plaintiff's two year contract, Bradley alleges that the board "never discussed her contract, never discussed her performance and never directly addressed any real concerns with the superintendent regarding how she was managing the system."
Bradley also alleges that certain board members held a private meeting regarding her contract.