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Legal action is still an option

It’s been a little more than 10 days since Selma City superintendent of education Dr. Don Jefferson made a demand to the Selma City School Board to remove what he called a letter of reprimand from his personnel file.

Terry G. Davis, attorney for Jefferson, presented the school board with a letter requesting the board members who approved the letter to retract comments he and his client considered defamatory in 10 days or Davis would institute an immediate civil lawsuit against them.

Selma City School’s attorney Katy Campbell said Wednesday to her knowledge, a statement of retraction has not yet been made on the account of the school board.

“The letter gave them 10 days to make a retraction,” Campbell said. “Dr. Jefferson or the board can take additional steps to take action or not.”

In addition, Campbell said she does not know what the school board’s general feelings are about Jefferson’s demands.

Davis said the 10-day warning meant his firm could not file suit and file punitive damages against board members individually. Davis said he and Jefferson allowed the 10 days to pass to allow board members to either apologize to Jefferson in a public meeting or remove the letter of reprimand.

“We are free to proceed against individuals and get punitive damages as much as we deem appropriate,” Davis said. “We’re at a window now where members have not given him (Jefferson) an apology … or have taken the reprimand out of (his) personnel file … it’s still a significant legal action that won’t go away if not responded to.”

During a July 25 meeting, the board authorized a letter, calling for Jefferson to receive more training in human resource issues be placed in Jefferson’s personnel file. At this meeting, the letter, which was drafted by board member Holland Powell, was approved by the majority of the board, with Powell and board members Brenda Randolph-Obomanu and Frank Chestnut Jr. voting in favor.

Davis said the board still has time to withdrawal the letter and make an apology before his firm files the civil suit. The letter still rests in Jefferson’s personnel file and the board must take action in order for the letter to be removed.

“We will be suing the school board as well, they’ll have to have separate lawyers represent them,” Davis said. “They overstepped boundaries. Holland Powell performed an illegal act against Jefferson … board members didn’t follow any procedural law.”

Powell said to date he has not been served with a lawsuit and considers Davis’ demands as threat.

“At the last board meeting, no one made a motion to rescind the letter,” Powell said. “The board members haven’t received an opinion from our legal council about the procedure.”

Davis said Jefferson is waiting and is willing to work with the board long term, giving them an opportunity to voluntarily respond so the case doesn’t have to move forward. Davis said he plans to meet with Jefferson later to decide when Jefferson will take action against the board if it chooses not to act.

“Jefferson wants to work it out,” Davis said. “We’ll either file in circuit court there (in Selma) or federal court. It’s up to the board to go through the expense to defend an action that was clearly illegal from its board and certain members.”
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