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Getz says he's ending litigation involving payments to Magee; read news release here
BEAUMONT - News release from Michael Getz
Late this afternoon, I was finally able to speak with Texas House Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the Texas House Committee on Public Education. Chairman Aycock was the member of the Texas House of Representatives that sponsored the bill that was enacted into law last year as Section 180.007 of the Texas Local Government Code. This is the provision of the law that is at issue in the lawsuit involving former BISD employee Keeith Magee.
Magee resigned with BISD effective February 19, 2014, and since the resignation was accepted by the superintendent, BISD had no further obligation to pay him pursuant to his contract. Of course, we now know that the superintendent entered into a second contract with Magee on the following day, without the knowledge or authorization of the board, in which Chargois obligated BISD to pay Magee through the end of June 2014, even though he was no longer working for BISD and in fact, had taken a job as a coach at a junior college in Mississippi. This second contract promised to pay Magee the balance under his employment contract as long as Magee would stay quiet about complaints he had against the school district and would promise not to sue the school district. In essence, this is hush money, pure and simple.
Our client Melinda Harper, sued BISD to enjoin further payments to Magee, citing Section 180.007 of the Texas Local Government Code, which states that BISD "may not pay an employee or a former employee more than an amount owed under a contract with the employee" unless it holds at least one public hearing in which it would be required to state the reason WHY they were paying more than the amount owed under a contract.
That seems clear, right? BISD was no longer obligated to pay Magee after February 19, 2014, they no longer owed Magee money after February 19, 2014, but they were going to pay him the balance of his employment contract so it would therefore seem they should have to conduct a public hearing in order to be able to do so. Right?
According to Representative Aycock, that was not really the intention of his bill. He indicated that in his view, BISD would only be required to conduct a public hearing if they had agreed to pay Magee more than he was owed under his employment contract meaning, that if BISD owed Magee $30,000.00 under the remainder of his employment contract between February 19, 2014 and June 30, 2014, the school district could agree to pay that to him WITHOUT holding a Section 180.007 hearing. If the school district owed Magee $30,000.00 under the remainder of his contract and were to try to pay him $35,000.00, then they WOULD be required to hold a Section 180.007 hearing.
Representative Aycock indicated that there has been a lot of confusion over the language of the bill but no one has asked him to prepare a Bill of Legislative Intent yet and there certainly have been no court cases decided as yet to provide any guidance on the issue. But after talking to Aycock and getting a clarification of what HIS intent was, as the author of the bill, it seems that our client would likely not prevail in this suit.
Rather than continue this litigation and allow BISD to rack up a whole bunch of legal fees from taxpayer dollars, I think it more prudent, based on my conversation with Aycock and Ms. Harper, to end this litigation. To that end, we have filed a Motion for Nonsuit which effectively ends this case. There will be no hearing tomorrow in Judge Shuffield's court.
I still think the decision to pay Coach Magee was a poor one but because Chargois contractually obligated BISD to doing so without even consulting with the Board, the school district would certainly face a lawsuit from Magee if it breached its agreement. Obviously the majority of the board had no problem with the agreement because they ratified it last week. This school district has no problem paying a lot of people a lot of money, even when they are not actually performing their job duties - which contributes to the dire financial situation in which they find themselves.