CSD releases name of investigator looking into case of fired media clerk
City Schools of Decatur has released the name of an investigator hired to look into the controversial firing of a beloved media clerk, Susan Riley.
CSD released the information in response to an open records request from Decaturish. The investigator is attorney Jonathan Poole with Strickland Brockington Lewis, according to an engagement letter provided by CSD. His rate will be $235 per hour. There’s no indication of how many hours the investigation will take.
Poole did not return messages seeking comment. According to his firm’s website, he has extensive experience defending educational institutions and employers from discrimination claims.
“In employment matters, he defends employers before administrative agencies, and in state and federal courts through all stages of litigation, including trial, appeal, mediation and arbitration,” his biography says. “He has successfully defended numerous discrimination cases arising under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as a variety of employment-related tort cases. He provides advice, counseling, and training to employers designed to minimize their exposure to claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, breach of contract, torts, and workers’ compensation.”
Riley’s attorney, David Hughes, has alleged his client faced harassment due to her age.
The attorney was chosen by mutual agreement of Riley’s attorney and CSD.
In the engagement letter, Poole says he has been hired to, “conduct an investigation for the City Schools of Decatur into the termination of an employee, and whether or not the Superintendent received accurate information about the reasons for the employee’s termination.”
The Decatur School Board and superintendent initially refused to disclose the name of the investigator or the amount CSD is paying him because they said releasing this information would somehow hinder the investigation. CSD officials have asked Decaturish not to publish the name of the investigator. An editorial published on March 13 outlines our reasoning for publishing this information.
Superintendent David Dude confirmed last week that the review is underway. Riley, a popular media clerk who worked at Decatur High School for 19 years, was abruptly fired from her job on Friday, Feb. 26. The news of the termination caused an immediate uproar, and Dude later placed Riley on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Hughes said his client was fired for four reasons, including misappropriating school equipment, failing to adhere to a new job plan, inappropriately complaining about her coworkers’ alleged mistreatment of her and for discussing a human resources complaint into her allegations. School Board members have rebutted his accusations, but have declined to offer specifics.
After the news of the firing broke, students, staff and community members organized a large rally on Riley’s behalf. There was also a show of support for Riley during a recent School Board meeting.
Here is the engagement letter, provided by CSD: