Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey filed a lawsuit earlier this year against former interim state superintendent Phillip Cleveland, state school board member Mary Scott Hunter and three state department attorneys contending that they conspired to make sure he was not selected as state superintendent in 2016.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Roman Shaul heard arguments from attorneys from the five defendants on May 1. All contended their clients were simply “doing their job” and the case against them dismissed.
The judge stated that he would have a ruling by Friday, May 5, 2017. However, 22 Fridays came and went before he ordered all parties a few days ago to enter into mediation and try to reach a settlement by Dec. 31. Retired Judge Gene Reese (who Shaul replaced) will handle the mediation.
The first temptation is to declare this a “win” for Pouncey and a “loss” for the defendants.
But Kenny Mendelsohn, Pouncey’s attorney, cautions against such a judgement. “The judge has not ruled on a dismissal and could still do so,” he says.
However, Mendelsohn points out that we now know more about the situation that unfolded in the summer of 2016 than when the suit was first filed. For instance, a legislative committee looking into the matter of why info was given to the Ethics Commission that could not be investigated has concluded its work and sent its findings to both the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission for followup. In addition, an internal investigation by the state department of education that found there was collusion among the five defendants became public.
None of this information was helpful to the defendants.
The five defendants are represented by three different law firms. According to Mendelsohn all parties are now trying to figure out a date when the mediation can be held.
Since Mary Scott Hunter is already a declared candidate for the state senate in Huntsville, it’s safe to say that she probably has more at stake than the other four defendants. June 5, 2018 is the date of the primary election and no candidate wants to be involved with a law suit at the same time they are running for office.
This is just one more reminder the selection process that ended with Mike Sentance being chosen as state superintendent was flawed and that his tenure for one year and one day in this position should have never happened.