Note: This article was written by ROBIN READER (612) and was originally published on her website Broken Arrow Forum on December 27, 2010, and reappears here on this blog with her permission.
I believe Sisney’s attorney, Rachel Mor, is right – the Breach of Contract is the heart of the case. It has been established that the board followed all the rules perfectly in their suspension and firing of Sisney. Sisney does not dispute that, or that they paid him the remainder of his contract, through June 2009, as required.
The only dispute – and it’s the one this whole controversy hinges on – is why they fired him. I expect Sisney to contend that even though they followed all the procedures, his contract was breached because they fired him for no good reason. He can point to his past evaluations, his awards, his accomplishments, his reputation in the community, and his contract, approved by the board to extend for the next three years, to show that he had every reason to believe that they approved of his work. He can point to his contract to show that he should have been able to count on remaining employed for three more years.
So what could possibly have caused certain members of the board to suddenly turn on such a valued superintendent? This is where the suggestion of conspiracy comes in – they were fine with him until he discovered their behind-the-scenes relationship with a vendor, which they were using to siphon money from the District’s maintenance budget.
Sisney’s only hope is to convince the judge/jury of this scenario, and that all the manipulation he was caught doing was only in self-defense against the relentless crusade of the three board members, Air Assurance, and Doug Mann to get rid of him. This would probably satisfy the requirements of the Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, and qualify for Breach of Contract.
It’s not just the Breach of Contract claim that hinges on whether Sisney was fired for valid reasons – it’s the whole case. If the board members and the District can show that Sisney was fired for just cause, it’s all over. None of Sisney’s charges against the board members can stand. The first three – defamation, injurious falsehood, invasion of privacy – false light – all deal with board members saying false bad things about Sisney. If the things they allegedly said are true, these charges go away. The fourth, tortious interference with a business contract, no longer applies if there was justification for terminating the contract. And since some of the reasons for termination involve Sisney inflicting emotional distress on others, his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress is not likely to carry much weight if those reasons are shown to be valid.
Bo Rainey’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the Breach of Contract (including the Implied Covenant charge), filed 12/22/2010, states that the only way Sisney could prevail on the Breach of Contract is if there was no evidence supplied at the executive session when his termination was discussed, and if the board members had decided without seeing any evidence that they were going to fire Sisney. Rainey provided affidavits from four of the board members (all but Stephanie Updike) stating, “At the board meeting held on October 23, 2008, information was presented to the Board in executive session in support of each of the five reasons set forth in Mr. Mann’s letter of October 7, 2008.”
That’s evidence for each of the five reasons. The evidence at the board meeting was not included in the Motion for Summary Judgment; this may be because of confidentiality requirements (drat).
Three of the board members stated in their affidavits that they based their decision on whether to fire Sisney solely on the supporting information presented in executive session. Terry Stover did not make that statement; in fact, according to Sisney’s deposition, Stover had previously said in June 2008 that he thought Sisney had done “too much for the district” to get rid of him. So he had already made his decision not to fire Sisney no matter what the evidence showed.
I don’t see much hope for Sisney to convince anybody that he was fired for no good reason. In fact, pursuing this Breach of Contract claim provides the District with a great opportunity to show exactly why Sisney was fired – which makes the case for the board members too.
I think it’s likely that Sisney will be willing to drop the remaining charges in return for the Counterclaim to be dismissed. This is probably a good deal, if the following conditions are met:
Sisney provides a complete statement to the media explaining what really happened, and that he made up the conspiracy claims; this statement should be approved in advance by all of the defendants in his lawsuit and their attorneys.
Sisney issues a public apology to the three board members, Mike and Narissa Rampey, Dr. Hudkins, Doug Mann, Gary Gerber, Bill Miller, Cheryl Kelly, the staff and teacher of Broken Arrow Schools, and all Broken Arrow citizens.
Sisney releases the names of everyone who helped him spread his lies, along with a description of their contributions: Citizens who posted comments, developed a website devoted to supporting his story, harassed the District with pointless open records requests, provided misleading testimony and documents to the auditor, and spread gossip through conversation and other means; school employees who gathered and leaked information to him and his supporters, and misled the auditor; board members who misled the public, did unethical things to support Sisney, and helped convince the auditor of corruption at BA Schools; state representatives who used their connections to undermine BA Schools, leaked inaccurate and inflammatory documents, and issued false and misleading statements in the media; newspaper employees who intentionally steered public opinion by reporting misleading information, omitting important information, encouraging comments that supported Sisney while censoring those that questioned him, and printing editorials favoring Sisney while unfairly maligning his targets.
Sisney releases his entire personnel file to the public, along with all the evidence provided at the executive session and all evidence, including depositions, collected in relation to both of his lawsuits
Sisney has a wage assignment put on his paycheck for the legal costs he caused, payable directly to the District. He doesn’t know how much he makes anyway, so he probably won’t miss it.
Sisney responds personally to all online comments that continue to criticize his targets based on his false accusations. Forever.