Bill Moss, a 31-year veteran of the Wilson County school system whose position as Career & Technical Supervisor was eliminated in September of 2013, was reinstated Tuesday.
However, according to attorney Michael Clemons of Clemmons & Clemons PLLC in Nashville, the lawsuit Moss filed in October lawsuit in Wilson County Chancery Court against Dr. Tim Setterlund and the Wilson County Board of Education alleging wrongful termination remains pending.
“He’s been reinstated. However, his lawsuit is still pending,” Clemons said, declining to comment on how the reinstatement occurred. “What exactly his duties are in the reinstatement remain to be seen. When his position was abolished, two other individuals took over his responsibilities, and as far as I know, they are still there and doing those jobs, so what he’s doing, I’m not sure.”
Jennifer Cothron and Monty Wilson, both supervisors of secondary education, were assigned to absorb Moss’ duties, according to Setterlund at the time Moss’ position was eliminated.
Regardless of the circumstances of his reinstatement, Moss said he’s optimistic about being back.
“I think I still have something to offer,” he said. “I think I help teachers help students. People in the community have been so gracious and supportive of me and that goes beyond words.”
The lawsuit which was filed in October 2013 alleges that Moss’ “dismissal was not due to the abolition of his position, and, as a result, he was denied his statutory and constitutional right to notice and an impartial hearing before the board.”
Attorney answers lawsuit's allegations
In December, Attorney John D. Schwalb of Franklin, hired by the Board of Education’s insurance company to defend the board and Setterlund, submitted an answer to the lawsuit in Chancery Court.
In the answer, it was admitted, “that Moss performed his teaching duties in such a fashion that he would not have been terminated by the Board of Education for causes defined in the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act.”
The answer also admitted “On Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, Defendant Setterlund called Mr. Moss into his office and stated that he had abolished Moss’ position. Defendant Setterlund further stated that he and Moss had differing visions for the school system.”
However, the answer “denied as stated,” an allegation that “Mr. Moss asked if he thought they could work together but Defendant Setterlund responded that he could not work with Moss.”
At the time of Moss’ firing, Setterlund told The Post: “Not everyone may share my vision. I’m examining the whole Central Office structure to ensure that it is efficient, cost effective and will achieve the goals of the district.”
An additional reason was money given in the case of Moss, whose annual salary was close to $100,000.
Four new positions in Central Office were approved by the BOE in December, as part of Setterlund’s reorganization plan. Educators previously employed by the Shelby County school system, which is where Setterlund was employed for 20 years prior to his move to Wilson County, filled two of the positions, while two Wilson County employees were filled the other two.
The answer also denied the allegation in the lawsuit that “Defendant Setterlund told Mr. Moss that in order to retain his insurance provided by the school system that he would need to retire. Defendant Setterlund then provided Moss with a Separation Notice to complete. … Defendant Setterlund informed Moss that he would need the completed Separation Form back by 5 p.m. that day.”
Instead the answer stated, “that Moss chose to retire.” Clemons told The Post in an Oct. 24 article, “Mr. Moss obviously chose to retire because it was the only option he had. He had no desire to retire.”
In regards to Moss’ having “no desire to retire but complied with Defendant Setterlund’s recommendation due to his need for income and insurance benefits,” the answer stated: “Defendants are without sufficient knowledge or information upon which to form a belief as to the allegations.”
Also denied in the answer was an allegation that “Following the meeting with Defendant Setterlund, Mr. Moss was forbidden from returning to his office”, while it did admit, “he was told he needed to go to the human resources department.”
As to the allegation in the lawsuit that Moss was not placed on “a preferred list for employment,” as required by state law, the answer stated, “It is denied that such as required after he made the decision to retire.”
Additionally, the answer admitted that Moss “was not provided with a pre-abolition notice,” but it denied, “that had Moss requested a hearing he would not have been given a hearing.”
The answer also admitted the allegation that the minutes of the BOE “do not reflect that it took action or made any decision regarding Moss’ position,” but it denied as stated the lawsuit’s statement that “… the abolishment of which was done arbitrarily and capriciously by Defendant Setterlund in violation of state law, including the Teacher Tenure Act, and Board policies.”
All other allegations denied, except for three
The majority of the other allegations and counts in Moss’ lawsuit were also denied in the answer, except for the following:
• Paragraph 27 of the lawsuit states: “Following his termination, Plaintiff suffered humiliation and embarrassment as a result of the media coverage regarding his termination and treatment by Director of Schools.” To this answer read: “Defendants are without sufficient knowledge or information upon which to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations of paragraph 27.”
• Under Count I, the answer admitted the allegation in Paragraph 32 “that Setterlund chose to abolish the position prior to formally notifying the Board.”
• Under Count II, the answer denied, “the first grammatical sentence of paragraph 35,” but admitted the second sentence of the paragraph, which reads “ The purported abolition of Moss’ position was a shame designed by Defendant Setterlund to circumvent the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-511 and 49-5-512, because there was no valid ‘cause’ to dismiss him. As a tenured teacher, Moss could only be discharged for the causes specified in Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-511(a) and by the procedures mandated in Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-11 and 49-5-12.”
In the lawsuit, Moss also sought punitive damages against the Board, but the answer states that the “defendants aver and allege the complaint fails to state a claim,” as well as Moss “fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted after the plaintiff retired.”
The answer also states the Board and Setterlund, as the Defendants “aver and allege” that Moss “has failed to mitigate his damages” and “… has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.”
Also, the answer states that “any remedy available to Moss is limited to his pack pay from the date he was effectively terminated until his retirement,” and that he “did not have a property interest in the position of CTE Supervisor, but only in the funds for that position which was effectively extinguished upon his retirement.”
In closing, the answer states “Defendants pray the complaint be dismissed.”