breaking news

Injury crash shuts down multiple lanes of I-85 North in Gwinnett County

DeKalb schools face costly lawsuit


The cash-strapped DeKalb County school system could face a budget-busting bill if it loses a lawsuit that the Georgia Supreme Court has sent to trial.

Two employees are suing the system over unpaid retirement funds, and if a DeKalb judge grants the suit class action status the school system could be on the hook for $50 million, about 7 percent of the current budget, both sides say.

The two teachers, Elaine Gold and Amy Shaye, sued after the school board suspended payments in 2009 to a tax-sheltered annuity plan established in 1979 as an alternative to Social Security.

They argue that DeKalb was required to give two years warning before halting payments.

The promised contribution was between 5 percent and 6 percent of each teacher’s salary, or a few thousand dollars apiece, said John Salter, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

But, Salter said, the amount owed all of DeKalb’s teachers and other eligible employees comes to tens of millions of dollars a year. “We contend the freeze violated the legal rights of not just Elaine and Amy, but thousands of teaching personnel,” Salter said in a written statement.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger issued several orders, including the denial of a school system motion to dismiss a breach of contract claim. The school system appealed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a split decision in November. Crucially, the appeals court upheld Seeliger’s decision on breach of contract.

The DeKalb system then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which this month announced it would not hear the case. Seeliger’s decision on the breach of contract issue stands, and the case returns to his court.

School system lawyers said through a spokesman that they disagree with the plaintiffs’ assessment of DeKalb’s liability and that they have “significant factual and legal defenses” against the contract claim. “We look forward to presenting these defenses to the trial court,” the lawyers said in a written statement.

At a meeting with teachers at Cross Keys High School Monday night, interim school Superintendent Michael Thurmond acknowledged the financial stake the system has in the case.

Several employees, including Terrell Worthem-Spruill, who teaches art at Sequoyah Middle School, said it was unfair to end the payments to their retirement accounts. “It seems like it should be illegal,” Worthem-Spruill said.

Thurmond said he couldn’t comment, but said, “the potential exposure at this point is between 40 (million) and 50 million dollars.” He said the lawsuit was “one of several legal issues hanging over the district that has to be resolved.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Torpy at Large: Gulch Giveaway a wonder of equal-opportunity outrage
Torpy at Large: Gulch Giveaway a wonder of equal-opportunity outrage

A familiar but amplified voice boomed through Atlanta’s City Hall atrium as I walked toward City Council chambers on Monday. “Don’t sell the city down the drain!” it bellowed. Entering the chambers, I could see Derrick Boazman, a former councilman/rabble rouser at the podium. Boazman, first up for citizen comment, was setting...
Cobb high school student allegedly exposed himself, dragged girl into bathroom
Cobb high school student allegedly exposed himself, dragged girl into bathroom

A North Cobb High School student allegedly exposed himself to a female student and dragged her into a boy’s bathroom last week, authorities said. Brian Salinas, 17, of Kennesaw, is being charged as an adult, Channel 2 Action News reported.  He allegedly grabbed a girl “by the arm and dragged her into a boys bathroom” where...
WEATHER-TRAFFIC UPDATE: Temps well above average as heat wave continues
WEATHER-TRAFFIC UPDATE: Temps well above average as heat wave continues

Wednesday: High: 93 Wednesday night: Low: 71 Thursday: High: 92 Ready for fall weather? Prepare to be disappointed. “You may be done with summer,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Karen Minton said, “but it is not done with you.” The expected high is 93 degrees in Atlanta Wednesday, with temperatures climbing a...
APD sergeant awarded $100K from Forsyth County after false DUI arrest
APD sergeant awarded $100K from Forsyth County after false DUI arrest

An Atlanta police sergeant was awarded more than $100,000 of Forsyth County taxpayer money after a lawsuit was settled last week because he was erroneously arrested for a DUI, Channel 2 Action News reported.  In August 2017, Sgt. Paul Sparwath called 911 when he saw some teenagers acting suspiciously in his Forsyth County neighborhood and possibly...
GBI artist hopes facial reconstruction will help ID remains found in Buford
GBI artist hopes facial reconstruction will help ID remains found in Buford

Human remains found in the Buford area have gone unidentified since they were discovered in 2015. However, a GBI forensic artist hopes a new model will trigger someone’s memory, Channel 2 Action News reported. “I just have a good feeling about it,” the GBI’s Kelly Lawson said of her 3D facial reconstruction. RELATED: Gwinnett...
More Stories