School District Whistleblower Files Defamation Suit Against Superintendent
The wrongful termination trial of Joe Palazzolo is set to start later this month in Decatur, but that’s not the only score the former assistant principal at Arlington Heights wants to settle with the Fort Worth school district. This morning, his attorney Victoria Neave filed an additional lawsuit against district Superintendent Walter Dansby for defamation and violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. The basis of the lawsuit stems from leaked audio of the school board’s executive session meeting in which the trustees discussed whether or not to settle the lawsuit with Palazzolo. The meeting was posted on the district’s website where it sat for almost three days until it was taken down. School board trustee Ann Sutherland told Fort Worth Weekly that parts of the discussion are missing.
In the new suit, Neave writes: “The case is about defendant Dansby’s blatant disregard for the protections of the Texas Open Meetings Act and the public disclosure of defamatory statements made by defendant Dansby and members of the Board of Trustees of Fort Worth Independent School District’s (“FWISD”) about Mr. Joseph Palazzolo, an exemplary educator who was wrongfully terminated and is the plaintiff in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit which is currently pending against FWISD.
“Defendant Dansby ordered microphones to be placed in a closed session of the FWISD board meeting, which recorded horrific defamatory statements and publicly broadcast them for the whole world to hear via the world wide web,” the petition says.
During the recorded meeting, Dansby said that he’d “rather the district lose in court” than be responsible for Palazzolo being around children. There was never any allegation made public or shared with Palazzolo about any substantive misconduct with students.
For damages, the petition says, the “plaintiff would show as a result of the disclosure and defamatory statements, he has suffered damages in the past and future including, lost wages, pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life.”