New information regarding the termination of former Greater Albany Public Schools Superintendent Jim Golden has come to light in an amended complaint he filed last month against the district.
Golden filed an initial complaint in November after being terminated by the GAPS board during a special meeting held July 12 of last year. He had been on paid leave since March 27 and received a list of charges against him on May 21. Those charges included gross insubordination, neglect of duty and conduct seriously prejudicial to the district.
In the amended complaint, Golden contends that the district did not immediately inform him of anonymous emails containing complaints about the superintendent that board members received beginning in November 2017. Citing his contract, Golden argues that he had the right to written charges, notice of hearing and a fair hearing before the board prior to his termination.
GAPS board members have previously declined to comment on what the complaints entailed, who made them and if they were found to be credible. In response to a request for comment regarding the amended complaint, a district spokesperson stated, “As the district’s efforts are focused on the future of our students and how to best serve them in their education, we don’t have a comment on the case of Jim Golden vs. GAPS at this time.”
According to Golden’s attorney, Judy Snyder, additional information was found during discovery, including emails between board chair Jennifer Ward, business and operations director Russ Allen, and board members Micah Smith and Frank Bricker.
“On or after Oct. 18, Allen began providing GAPS board member Jennifer Ward instructions regarding Mr. Golden’s alleged performance,” the complaint reads.
It then cites an Oct. 18 email from Allen to Ward that reportedly reads, in part, “I think you need to soft-peddle this. You should ask off-line to the Sup about the process used in deciding to make adds after budget adoption and what role the board plays in it. Simply being an inquisitive new board member. It would lay the ground work for later when you can say ‘I have been thinking about this…’”
In a separate exchange on another topic, Ward wrote to Allen, “Would it further Jim’s suspicions re: our behind the scenes conferring?” Allen responded, “You could discuss it without mentioning my involvement.”
The complaint notes that Ward and board member Kim Butzner continued to receive anonymous complaints about Golden through Dec. 12, 2017. On Dec. 14, Golden reportedly met with Smith and Ward about the emails and was given a written directive that summarized the meeting. The directive stated that the emailed complaints were neither substantiated nor dismissed by the district at the time and Golden contends he did not receive additional complaints following the Dec. 14 meeting.
According to Golden’s complaint, Ward received three additional emails complaining about the superintendent between Dec. 14 and Feb. 4. On Feb. 10, Ward reportedly received another anonymous email that contained information about Golden’s upcoming evaluation, which he argues had not been made public.
Golden also states in the complaint that he was required to have annual performance reviews but had not received one during his tenure.
On March 14, Ward reportedly emailed Smith to share a list of comments attributed to Golden that she had compiled. In the email, she tells Smith she intended to share the list with other board members.
“You can’t share it with other board members,” Smith reportedly replied. “You will create a public meeting. And then the document also becomes public.”
While on leave, Golden received notice that GAPS had received all necessary medical certification for a Family Medical Leave Act request. That leave was effective on April 16, according to the complaint.
On April 20, Allen sent an email to Ward and Bricker that included case law surrounding the termination of an employee under the Family Medical Leave Act. “I’m not an attorney. Just an FYI,” Allen wrote, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Golden is requesting a jury trial and just over $851,000 from the district. Snyder said that amount could change and that depositions in the lawsuit, which has been filed in Benton County Circuit Court, were set to begin in August. Because the district has schools in both Linn and Benton counties, Snyder said attorneys had to select one court in which to file the case.