Jury Awards Joe Palazzolo $2.4 Million in Whistleblower Case

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Posted March 26, 2014 by Eric Griffey in Blotch
Palazzolo-1024x6821

On Wednesday afternoon, in a Wise County courtroom, a jury found in favor of former Arlington Heights assistant principal Joe Palazzolo in his wrongful termination suit. The panel of seven women and five men took less than two hours to reach a verdict. The total damages awarded to Palazzolo exceeded $2.4 million. The trial began last Tuesday, March 18.

On Wednesday morning, attorneys for the school district petitioned the judge for a mistrial. After the verdict was announced, Thomas Brandt, an attorney for the district, said he will be “exploring appellant options with our client.”

Victoria Neave, an attorney for Palazzolo said she hopes the verdict will send a message to the district.

“We hope Fort Worth ISD will cease its retaliation against hard working teachers, especially our witnesses, who had no choice but to testify because they were subpoenaed,” she said. “We’re appreciative of the witnesses, who told the truth despite their overwhelming fear of retaliation.”

“This is a text book case of retaliation,” added Mark Scott, the other attorney for Palazzolo.

Palazzolo, who had been waiting for this day for four years, said his case never should have come down to a trial.

“Mr. Dansby said he would rather lose in court [than allow Palazzolo around children],” he said. “Today he got his wish.”

Juror Terry Hines wouldn’t go into detail about the discussion in the jury room, but did offer sympathy for Palazzolo.

“It was a long, drawn out case,” he said, “but not near as long and drawn out as what Mr. Palazzolo went through.”

Palazzolo echoed his attorney’s remarks, saying he hopes the district gets the message.

“[The district has spent] 1.5 million in legal fees over the last four years [on his case], and it can’t afford to buy kids desks  in classrooms,” he said. “It’s a travesty.”

 


26 Comments


  1.  

    Justice is served; even in our public school system! FINALLY!! Congratulations to Mr. Palazzolo.




  2.  

    After this verdict, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor and city council must get involved in cleaning house in FWISD administration if they expect to bring more companies to Fort Worth. The success of our public schools is a direct reflection on a city. People relocating to work in Fort Worth will choose other surrounding communities such as Aledo to live. This will affect the tax base of Fort Worth. Every taxpaying citizen here should contact their councilman demanding sweeping change in the administration at FWISD. Our better teachers will not choose to teach here if they feel the administration is retalitory and unsupportive of their efforts.




    •  
      Teacher

      I don’t think you understand how our government is set up. The ISD is run by the Superintendent. The Superintendent is managed by the school board. The city council does not manage the school board. The school board is beholden to the Texas Education Agency at the helm of Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. Not that I disagree with you, but let’s please remain informed as to how things work, and not give the other side any additional fodder.




      •  
        BB

        @Teacher , You’re right about how the school district works in terms of state code and by-laws. However, the point folks like Linda are making is the political and practical reality of how things really work interdependently in the community. Leaders of school districts are informally accountable to the other elected leaders like the City Council and Mayor (of municipalities that are part of FWISD, including Benbrook and other nearby cities) because they represent an even wider segment of the community and bear greater burdens to help the whole city, with the quality of public education being a major factor in the overall quality and attractiveness of a city for major corporations, organizations, and other drivers of the economic engine. The Chamber of Commerce, Board of Realtors, institutions of higher learning, and the general public have contributed to the funding of the school district and have the right to put pressure on the people in charge to get their act together because the quality of the public education is a major factor in whether companies move here, stay here, or even expand their existing operations here since their employees have children. Children and their education often play a major role in where their parents work and live (this is where Realtors come in).

        Just an observation about FW: the small town feel of this city is a two-edged sword because the local people tend to know each other, which is a good thing until difficult decisions affecting the public have to be made that require loyalties to family and friends to take a back seat. Case in point is the legal representation for Mr. Pallazolo. Like many before him, he learned that he has to get lawyers from outside the city in order to have the confidence that their loyalty is first and foremost to him their client. Jason Smith and Art Brender can be effective in many legal matters but their close connections in this town can be a detriment to an individual like Mr. Pallazolo and a case like his where the local establishment is too entrenched (or corrupt) for establishment-friendlies like Smith and Brender to be completely loyal to their client as their professional code requires. Just “The FW Way” at work.




  3.  
    JUSTICE

    Today has been long awaited…it is finally here and the message is loud and clear! FWISD IS GUILTY of retaliating against Joe Palazzolo; they covered up reports, harassed witnesses, with-held crucial information from the public (and continue to do so), and a whole litany of other things that you will hear about in due time! There is no hiding now, because it is ALL OUT and more is coming down the pike! To the FWISD Communications Officer, Griffin: You should get a raise…a BIG one, for keeping away any major TV stations and the Telegram from reporting anything negative about FWISD the last 4 yrs! I guess Joe P. can buy his OWN paper now and report whatever he wants, without fear, and alert the public that “WE DEMAND CHANGE” within our district’s administration and Board of Education! Joe, I am so proud of you and your family for weathering this “perfect storm”. Your supporters NEVER lost faith in your and abilities to fight for justice. Times got hard, but you persevered, in spite of having the worst legal counsel (Smith) ever! God saw your pain and thankfully gave you a reprieve with Victoria! I am thankful and honored to know you! You are the epitome of strength and courage! The haters are gonna hate, but you will continue to rise above! Godspeed my friend!




  4.  
    truth

    After enduring such a long fight, justice has been served. We now have precedent regarding any future cases that are the result of the constant bullying our administration puts our employees through. One comment stated that the ISD is not beholden to the city but it is tied because Price was involved in the dumb decisions being made. We now have the weapons to charge into next year and get rid of ineffective board members. Let’s now forget how they tried to cover it up by lying. We all believed in palazzolo from the beginning and the truth always comes out. Dansby contract may not be renewed and can’t wait for the confirmation. Corrupt, egotistical person ever, who is self-serving. I am sure they pray and pray for their personal gain and at the same time crush people just for the heck of it. Stay tuned for the details of all the information. Victory!




  5.  
    ROFLING @ fools

    Aaaaand it will be forgotten. Why? Because no one cares about a story witn no legs, published by marginal journalists, and commented on 24 times by the same 3 people under a number of different names. Sweet, some average who used to be a high school AP was fired by an ISD that avoids firing the most incompetent of its employees over fear of costly legal battles is now a millionaire. Sounds like the kind of victory a city can really rally behind. And then finally we can all agree to start really caring about students. Or are we pretending it’s been about that all this time?




    •  
      JUSTICE

      @ROFLING: The only “fool” here is YOU! And if you are so concerned about comments being written with different names, why don’t YOU state YOUR real name? I’m guessing it will be “Loser”, who is bitter about the reward, because you either got fired from AHHS, allowed to resign (when you should’ve been sent to prison), or worse…a past lawyer! Glass houses, “Loser”! A story with “no legs” you say? Why, because you didn’t read it in the number 1 epic failure of a paper named the Telegram? The “marginal journalists”, as you put it, are a lot better at reporting the truth and don’t “puff the piece” or even dare to report it like that crap Telegram has done and continues to do so. Truth hurts doesn’t it, so much so that it burns people like you into coming on here and voicing your discontent. You have no right to judge someone, unless you have walked in his shoes for 4 years! Real people’s lives have been affected; physically, emotionally and mentally. The man wanted his job back, but no one in their right mind wanted to put him back into that cesspool of bullying and retaliatory environment. Joe loved his job and still does. It’s ALWAYS been about being a public servant, but people like you, ROFLING are going to spin shit any way you want!

      FWISD LOST…period! Proven guilty of retaliation…making an educator and his family go through hell and back, all to appease a pretentious old hag, Needham and a corrupt Super, who may…should…lose his job! Hopefully, ALL the sitting Trustees, except the Black votes for obvious reasons and allegiance, need to vote to not extend his contract, come March 31st. To those teeter tottering; DON”T be fooled by this man; he lost his major supporters in Rangel and Vasquez for a reason! By the time it all comes out in public, you would have supported a sinister man, whose only concern is the amount of his retirement. DO THE RIGHT THING and vote “NO” to renew his contract. “The fat lady has sung.”




  6.  
    Fool to Rofling

    Teachers and staff will not forget this.




  7.  

    Like everyone else I’m happy that Joe went to trial and won but I am disappointed that only the verdict has been reported not any of the daily testamony or evidence that was presented to the jury. We don’t know who testified for the district or for Joe. What was the impact of their testimony on jury? How did the jury react to the talking heads for the district? Did Sweet Melody or the evil Judy testify? I personally would like to know and I think we have a right to know. After covering this story for 4 years I’m just disappointed that this is all we get from the Weekly.




  8.  

    Ok oops. I scrolled down and saw the Laundry Day article. Good information but there was more than that. Please give us a more complete wrap up of the trial.




  9.  

    Looking very much to reading it as are so many others.




    •  
      To Eric

      Please don’t out the teachers (who were under subpoena) in your forthcoming article to satisfy the public’s morbid curiosity. Many of them still work for the district and would like to just move on with their lives. This has been a very long and difficult journey for them, too.




      •  
        What are you talking about?

        It’s public record. Moreover, Menchaca sat through the whole thing and knows who they are. So what are you talking about?




        •  
          To Eric

          Then go find the public record yourself. No need for parents, students, and colleagues to read the seedy details in the press. These teachers still have to stand up in front of kids everyday. And they know Menchaca was there since he was sitting in front of them. They are hardly trying to hide from anyone in the district. They would just like to get back to the business of teaching your kids without further retaliation. That’s what I’m talking about.




          •  
            The Reason

            The “parents, students, and colleagues (need) to read the seedy details in the press” can be found on this week’s cover story. For some reason, you don’t sound like a Teacher who testified – more like a political hack.




  10.  
    JUSTICE

    http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/03/27/5687395/wise-county-jury-awards-24-million.html

    And this is exactly what I was talking about, when I said that the Telegram is crap in how they skew their stories. The so-called “witnesses” were all discredited, as they ALL repeated what they were coached…by FWISD legal team! Brandt is basically calling the jurors and judge in this case, liars, for ruling in favor of Joe! Face it Brandt, you are nothing more than a court Jester and you LOST! You all those people in the legal dept at FWISD, past and present, are idiots! You lied to the court and so did your witnesses! Nothing said in the Telegram article about a Trustee, who was threatened by Brandt, while she testified, to watch what she was saying. Who are the bullies? You all can paint the horrific picture you want about Joe, to help you sleep at night; the truth is your buffoonery in court was questioned and then answered by the jurors, by awarding Joe his just reward! Go ahead and appeal and waste more taxpayer money on guilt and cover-up. After all, it’s not your money right? It never has been. How sad that the public doesn’t know about what has transpired in the last 4 years, because the media is one-sided and protects the district. Heed this; there are 30+ boxes of evidence that will find its way to the NY Times Best Seller list!




  11.  
    Reader

    Don’t believe the Startlegram even had a reporter there. What or who is their source? Recycled and one sided once again. No surprise.




  12.  
    Truth

    Will release statements from most involved. Depositions etc. The point is to publish on your media. We also need to stand behind Sutherland for standing up. The cronies have already threatened her. Election is the way to rid of them. 2015 is the start




  13.  
    Truth

    Will release statements from most involved. Depositions etc. The point is to publish on your media. We also need to stand behind Sutherland for standing up. The cronies have already threatened her. Election is the way to rid of them.




  14.  
    JUSTICE

    Can I post now????




  15.  
    JUSTICE

    Dansby should not get praised on his evaluation, after putting our district in worst place for failing schools; we went from 23 schools to 38, yet he is the highest paid Super in the state??? I seem to remember a BS story in the Telegram, when Dansby was vying for the permanent job. Something about “I will turn this district around in a year” and Moss echoing her support for Dansby, unless “he didn’t do what he promised”. What now, President Moss? That was all smoke and mirrors in my opinion. Dansby knew the minute that his buddies, Vasquez and Rangel lost re-election for Trustees; he was as good as gone, because no one on the board (except for the obvious two) cares for him. He isn’t credited for doing crap since he has become Super, except to give his people promotions, raises and made-up jobs!

    1. He has withheld crucial TEA reports and circumvented their recommendations
    2. Created an upheaval within campuses regarding discipline and disparagement of minorities.
    3. Promised 4% raises to employees (this year) and took them back.
    4. Championed major raises for Central Office staff and lied to the board that they were approved!
    4. Supported a “nipple pincher” from Dunbar and instead of firing him, he gave him a cushy job at central.
    5. Promoted former AHHS Principal, Oliver to Central office, in spite of Oliver threatening staff with their jobs, if they told the media about Special Needs students using potty chairs in their classroom. Also involved in having a pedophile work under his nose!
    6. Supported hiring a “fired” DISD Principal and later rescinded offer after they received much criticism for their decision.
    7. Supported Principal Weeks’ decision to kick 3 Hispanic students off of the Soccer team at AHHS, when African American students received leniency for equal or worst offenses.
    8. Failed to report to the public: 2 High Schools experienced staff having sexual relations with students.
    9. Defamed Joe Palazzolo on an audio, which he allegedly masterminded as an epic fail legal move!
    10. Created a cushy job for Rev Tatum at TT, in exchange for him to distance him from helping Palazzolo fight for justice in the AHHS case. Later promises him grant money, if he does not testify for Palazzolo.
    11. Encouraged Carlos Vasquez to dodge process servers for the Palazzolo case in exchange for a Principal position in our district; the very district, which fired him as Principal during the Johnson regime.
    12. Cost the district over a 1 million is legal fees and probably 1.5 million more after the Defamation suit goes to trial!

    Now, you call this “doing a lot for this district”? It is more like, doing a lot TO this district! Dansby’s flunkies, who said in the Telegram that he was awesome, are as bat shit crazy as Dansby is! Then I hear that certain Board members are vacillating between voting yes or no, to give a positive review and extend his contract. Wow, it seems like certain board members have forgotten why their district put them in the Trustee position in the first place…TO REFORM! Dansby is out for himself…period! You think his fluid kudos are convincing enough for you to be lulled into becoming his new bff?! WAKE UP! Your district and others are not happy; when we hear you have your own skeletons in your closet that could accidently slip out on print!!! Welcome to politics! You are not immune! We are relentless people; we know the past and present and hold a mighty pin to pop your head, should it get too big! Right about now, you should feel a little pressure! Your district is watching! Dansby must go! DO YOUR JOB!




  16.  
    Tukuluarko

    After the completion of Benbrook HS with the bond program, should Benbrook become an Independent School District? If they detach from Fort Worth ISD, their district would become a high performance ISD. We need to become independent, why not?

    Too much embarrassment right now with all things that are going on with FWISD. We should become INDEPENDENT, and be an outstanding ISD. Let’s become independent.




  17.  
    cia

    THIS IS HOW YOU GET PROMOTED AT FWISD!!!

    Star-Telegram, May 1, 1998
    Accused of failure to report suspected abuse by colleague–Charges filed against 2 Fort Worth educators
    By Chris Vaughn, Staff Writer

    FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County district attorney’s office filed formal misdemeanor charges yesterday against two Sagamore Hill Elementary School administrators accused of ignoring reports that a child may have been molested by a teacher at the campus.
    The Class B misdemeanor charges against Principal Sherry Breed and Assistant Principal Hilaria Ruiz were assigned to Judge Mike Mitchell’s county criminal court. A conviction could carry a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
    Ruiz’ attorney said the case is not nearly as straightforward as it may seem and expressed confidence that his client will prevail in a trial.
    “I believe this falls into that gray area,” attorney Albert Perez said. “There were other allegations later, but that wasn’t what was reported to her. What was reported by the mother was just nebulous. There wasn’t any clear-cut accusations of wrongdoing.”
    Breed’s attorney, Tim White, did not comment on specifics, but said: “We intend to let this go to court. When all the facts come out, I’m confident she will be acquitted.”
    Assistant District Attorney David Montague declined to comment about the evidence in the case.
    Breed and Ruiz are accused of failing to tell police or Child Protective Services that a mother told them twice that her child might have seen a teacher molesting a student. The teacher, Modesto Rodriguez, was already under investigation on accusations of sexual abuse of another child. He ]has since been convicted of aggravated sexual assault in that case and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
    It is unusual, authorities said, to file a charge of not reporting allegations of abuse, although they could not give precise numbers of such cases. Longtime Fort Worth school district officials say they can’t remember it ever happening to an educator.
    Prosecutors say it is more common for family members to be accused of not reporting child abuse.
    “It’s quite rare and has to be a pretty blatant situation, where obviously the person was aware and failed to report,” said Michael Beene, a program director with CPS.
    CPS officials estimate that the number of reports from employees of the Fort Worth school district has doubled since the police opened their investigation of Breed and Ruiz and stern reminders were issued by Superintendent Thomas Tocco.
    “We’re now receiving an enormous amount of referrals from throughout the region,” agency spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said. “Referrals from all school districts have steadily increased throughout the year, and we estimate that referrals from the Fort Worth ISD have doubled in the last few weeks.”
    CPS could not pinpoint the exact number it has received but the district typically reports about 70 to 110 suspected cases a month. CPS expects reports to surpass that number for the next several months.
    “This heightens awareness, especially if there are consequences to individuals,” Beene said. “It scares people that they could be violating a law, so any of those gray areas, they’re reporting.”
    In 1965, the Legislature passed a law making it a misdemeanor for physicians to not report suspected child abuse or neglect. The law has been changed several times over the years, most notably changing the wording to say “any person” must report his suspicions to authorities.
    The law specifically names several categories of people — teachers, physicians, nurses, day-care workers and probation officers among them — who must report allegations or suspicions within 48 hours.
    Although teachers say there are times when it is obvious that what they see or hear in school should be reported to police or CPS, they also contend that sometimes the decisions are not so easy.
    Beene agreed that there is still “some confusion” and plenty of judgment calls, but he said that CPS has tried to clarify the law in training sessions and memos to school personnel.
    Perez repeated his wish to have the trial this summer, so Ruiz can have the opportunity to return to school this fall. Ruiz and Breed are both on paid administrative leave.
    While Perez said the intent of the law is admirable, he believes that there is too much wiggle room for people to make honest mistakes.
    “Judging from the feelings I’m getting within the community, I get some good vibes about what a jury would do,” Perez said. “From what I’ve read and heard, people aren’t too comfortable with what’s happening to my client.”

    `Chris Vaughn, (817) 390-7547′




  18.  
    truth

    checkout my blog, let’s bring out everything about FWISD.

    http://ciafwisd.blogspot.com

    will be posting items related to palazzolo case and anything else we can find to discuss.





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