Former security director James Smith has threatened to file a $5 million lawsuit against the Paterson Public Schools, according to public records.
Smith filed a claim notice on Sept. 27. He alleges the school district suspended him with pay “in retaliation and wrongfully and improperly did not renew” his employment contract in May 2019. He was suspended in Dec. 2018; school officials at the time did not provide a reason as to why he had been suspended.
Smith’s position was eliminated by superintendent Eileen Shafer and the school board in May, ending his 16-year career in the district. He was receiving $156,440 in salary prior to his termination.
Smith has “sustained physical, mental, and emotional injuries as well as significant financial damages” as a result of the non-renewal of his employment, says the claim.
The security director’s downfall began after an investigation into school board member Emanuel Capers’ controversial trip to Arizona.
Capers declined to comment on the claim.
“You were provided a copy of the investigation report, and the report speaks for itself,” said Paul Brubaker, spokesman for Paterson Public Schools, referring to a district investigation report that accused Smith of contract violations, vehicle misuse, and failure to adequately disclose sources of his income on state financial disclosure forms.
Smith has denied the allegations contained in the 19-page investigation report.
“We regard the notice of claim as a prelude to a frivolous lawsuit. A good indication of the pending lawsuit’s frivolity is the claim for $5 million, which is simply nonsense,” said Brubaker.
A message left for Smith on Wednesday morning was not answered.
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