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Joe Palazzolo

Joe Palazzolo is burning through attorneys the way Elizabeth Taylor went through husbands. In March, the former assistant principal at Arlington Heights High was awarded more than $2 million in his wrongful termination suit against the school district. Predictably, the district appealed the verdict.

Maybe Palazzolo wanted an attorney whose name was as difficult to pronounce as his own: Most recently he hired Kristine Skocpol-Saleh to represent him. He said he parted company with Austin attorney Susan Hayes and, before that, the Dallas duo of Victoria Neave and Mark Scott because his case wasn’t making any progress.

“Problems between the attorneys escalated and became the focus of attention,” he said.

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One of the major bones of contention between attorneys was the $243,082 fee awarded to Neave and Scott, who took the case to trial. Art Brender, whose firm was the first to represent Palazzolo, told Fort Worth Weekly that Neave and Scott used his firm’s work to try the case and did no research of their own.

Attorneys for the school district have asked the court to sanction Neave for contacting school board members directly, without their attorney’s permission. In court documents, school district attorney Thomas Brandt claims that Neave twice wrote to the board threatening trustees with depositions, attempting to give them legal advice, and talking smack about him –– including encouraging them to question his legal advice.

Neave didn’t return a call from the Weekly asking for her response.

Skocpol-Saleh will represent Palazzolo in the appeal as well as in his defamation suit against former superintendent Walter Dansby and a new case against the school board.

Skocpol-Saleh believes the board should have voted in open meeting on appealing the March verdict. Last month, she filed suit against the school board for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.

“There’s some precedents out there that actions like that require a public vote,” she said. She tried a similar case against the Farmers Branch school district that ended in a settlement.

Skocpol-Saleh said that if the courts find the board violated the law, the district’s appeal could be voided.

“They can still go take a public vote, but it’s too late. It would effectively shut them down,” she said.

In an e-mail, Brandt told the Weekly that he really missed seeing Palazzolo in court and hoped they could catch up over coffee. OK, not really — but on the other hand, Palazzolo’s suits do keep running up Brandt’s legal fees.

“This case is the fourth time he has sued us,” Brandt said. “It is without merit. We intend to fight it vigorously.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. Go Joe. Glad that someone has filed suit for the TOMA violation. If the people of Ft. Worth won’t rein the board in maybe the courts will. Thanks Weekly for the update.

  2. At what point is enough, ENOUGH? Needham has dragged this on now for 5 years!! Personally I can’t wait to read the transcript of the trial. Someone needs to forward all of the Weekly’s FWISD stories starting (with this one) to the Superintendent search firm, Ray & Associates. Hopefully some potential School Board candidates are taking notes. We have at least three incumbents up for re-election who should be thrown out: Jackson, Needham and Moss.

  3. The latest…Linares has a friend in San Francisco that she wants as new superintendent.
    Sorum promoted Creel, Arispe, Steinert and Sheffield and the district is financially struggling? Board approved?
    Until the top layers of this district removed, including board members FWISD will never be transparent and the bullying and retaliation culture will continue.
    Dansby is seeking an attorney to sue the board?

    Incredible…

  4. Mr. Griffey needs to check his facts. Palazzolo never formally retained Susan Hayes. She is a friend of Victoria Neave who was pressuring Joe to hire her. Neave did not want to fight the Open Meetings Act violation and wanted Joe to settle. Perhaps it was because of the ethics violation FWISD is pursuing against her which she neglected to tell her client about. Sleeze and greed comes in all forms. The Weekly has truly gotten lost in the weeds on FWISD. God Bless Betty Brink.

  5. Mr. Griffey needs to check his facts. Palazzolo never formally retained Susan Hayes. She is a friend of Victoria Neave who was pressuring Joe to hire her. Neave did not want to fight the Open Meetings Act violation and wanted Joe to settle. Perhaps it was because of the ethics violation FWISD is pursuing against her which she neglected to tell her client about. Sleaze and greed comes in all forms. The Weekly has truly gotten lost in the weeds on FWISD. God Bless Betty Brink.

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