Former security director James Smith filed a lawsuit against the Paterson Public Schools on Tuesday.
Smith’s lawsuit claims superintendent Eileen Shafer retaliated against him for investigating the controversial Arizona trip taken by school board member Emanuel Capers by suspending him and later refusing to renew his contract.
The lawsuit states Smith suffered “loss of employment, loss of income, humiliation, loss of status, emotional and physical distress and mental anxiety.”
“This suit is a long time coming but I’m glad I finally get to set the record straight with hopefully a jury trial,” said Smith in a statement. “It will be a welcome sight to see the Superintendent, current and past Assistant Superintendents, past and current Board of Education Commissioners, past and current lawyers for the district, along with numerous others testify under oath about reports, driver abstracts, DWI convictions, falsification of documents, etc. The nightmare will finally bring this case to a conclusion and everyone will see what truly happened not the false and fabricated lies the district put out in order to keep me silent.”
Shafer’s spokesman declined to comment citing “ongoing litigation.”
“I can’t comment on this pending lawsuit. But when I think of Smith, I think of a person that used and abused his power as the head security guard in the district. His tactics are laughable. And the district has been doing great without him and will continue to do great,” said Capers.
“His suspension speaks for itself. He should have been removed,” said Smith referring to the ethics commission’s recommendation that Capers be removed from the school board. “I hope the voters keep that in mind when he comes up for re-election.”
Smith’s investigation alleged Capers violated ethics rules by going on the trip. Capers denied the allegations. An administrative law judge ruled in Capers’ favor, but the New Jersey School Ethics Commission ruled against him. He was suspended for six months by the New Jersey commissioner of education for taking the all-expense paid trip.
Capers has filed an appeal and continues to deny any wrongdoing.
Smith’s position was eliminated by Shafer and the school board in May 2019, ending his 16-year career in the district. He was receiving $156,440 in salary prior to his termination.
School officials previously argued Smith was terminated because of alleged contract violations and vehicle misuse. A district investigation report 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.
Smith is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. He previously wanted $5 million from the district in damages. He also wants the court to reinstate him as security director, according to the lawsuit.
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