The Grade Blog

Tuesday, Aug 13 2013 06:04 PM

KHSD settles whistleblower lawsuit

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    John Fox is one of three maintenance and operations administrators fired by Kern High School District.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

The Kern High School District has settled with two former employees who had alleged they were wrongfully terminated after calling attention to contracts they said were shady.

John Fox and Clemon Williams Jr., formerly assistant directors in the district's maintenance and operations department, two years ago filed lawsuits asking for several million dollars for lost wages, retirement benefits and emotional distress.

In the lawsuit filed in September 2011, the plaintiffs said they noticed a change in the way contract practices were being handled after the district hired Larry Patrick as the director of maintenance and operations in 2003.

Instead of putting construction and repair jobs out for formal bid or obtaining estimates for work in compliance with state law, the jobs were being awarded to particular companies.

For instance, nearly all roofing projects went to Garland Roofing Co. and its subsidiary, Commercial Roofing Systems Inc.; and all carpeting contracts went to Collins and Aikman, and Metro Floors Inc.

Fox and Williams had criticized what they saw as "needless, wasteful" spending in their department, as well as "kickbacks, bribes and improper gifts" construction companies allegedly were giving KHSD employees.

All of the companies named in the lawsuit had denied any wrongdoing, as did the district.

Fox and Williams couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, but their attorney, Michael Dolan, confirmed that a settlement had been reached Monday, when the case was scheduled to go to trial. Dolan declined to answer additional questions, saying the terms were confidential.

The district's attorney, Leonard Herr, did not return telephone calls. Nor did Superintendent Don Carter or district spokesman John Teves.

Patrick died in 2009. A year later his successor, Steve Tolin, placed Fox and Williams on paid administrative leave after they received negative performance evaluations. They were replaced and forced out in 2011, according to the lawsuit.

The Kern County Superior Court complaint contended the pair were effectively terminated as retribution for whistleblowing.

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