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Lawsuit alleges Decatur superintendent took more vacations than his contract allowed

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Lawsuit alleges Decatur superintendent took more vacations than his contract allowed

Superintendent David Dude

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — A new federal lawsuit against Decatur Superintendent David Dude alleges a central office shakeup in December 2019 occurred because employees expressed concerns that Dude took more vacations than his contract allowed.

David Adams, the district’s former Executive Director of Staff Support, filed the lawsuit on Jan. 19. Adams alleges that Dude’s public statement about his departure from the district hampered his ability to find work and breached a non-disparagement clause of his severance agreement with the district.

He’s seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the district and asks for a “permanent injunction, prohibiting [the school district and superintendent] from engaging in unlawful employment practices, including but not limited to retaliation for engaging in protected speech, and violation of constitutional rights to freedom of speech.”

When asked to comment, Superintendent Dude said the lawsuit contained “unfounded accusations” and the district will be filing a response in court.

“These attempts by a disgruntled employee and former employee to slander the school system and district leaders will be vigorously defended and we are confident they will be shown to be unfounded,” Dude said.

Two top CSD staffers – Director of Finance Susan Hurst and Adams – abruptly resigned in December 2019. At the time, district officials described their simultaneous departure as “coincidental,” and in a subsequent interview with Decaturish, Dude said that prior to Adams departure, the district’s attorneys investigated complaints about him.

“There were some employees who felt like they weren’t being supported as well as they should’ve been supported in their interactions [with David Adams],” Dude said when he was interviewed last January about the staffing changes at CSD’s central office.

Adams’ lawsuit relays a starkly different account of the reasons Hurst and Adams left the district. Hurst and Adams did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

The lawsuit alleges that Dude violated state statutes and ethics rules by improperly reporting his vacation time. It says he used more vacation hours than permitted by his contract. This was reported to the school district’s attorney and shortly thereafter, “Dude began a frivolous investigation” of Adams, the lawsuit says.

Adams served as Human Resources Officer from 2015 to 2020. The lawsuit alleges that in the fall of 2017, Hurst told Adams that Dude had received an expense reimbursement from the School Board without any requirement that he produce documentation or proof of the expenses, like receipts or invoices.

“Ms. Hurst expressed concern to Mr. Adams that reimbursement for Defendant Dude’s claimed amounts without proof of the expenditure was tantamount to an improper salary increase,” the lawsuit says.

She also told Adams she was concerned that Dude took vacation time “in great excess” of the time he was reporting being off or the time permitted in his employment contract.

The lawsuit says Dude is required to work 255 days per academic year.

“Defendant Dude was reporting taking nominal time off per year to the CSD Board, but was actually taking six to seven weeks off from work entirely during the summers, in addition to being gone on non-work district holidays,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant Dude worked less than even the employees whose contracts were for 220 days per year.”

If that allegation is true, it would be a violation of the Code of Ethics for Government Service, the lawsuit says. Misuse and misreporting of public funds would also be a violation of the Georgia Professional Code of Ethics for Educators, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit goes on to say that in December 2018, Hurst told Adams that she believed Dude purchased a new home using salary advanced to him by the School Board. In August 2019, the lawsuit says, Hurst told Adams she wanted to pursue an external ethics complaint against Dude and Adams reported the allegations of misconduct to CSD’s attorney. He told CSD’s attorney that Dude was underreporting time off and then accepting payments for the unused vacation time. He told the attorney that Hurst wanted to file an external ethics complaint against Dude.

Shortly after Adams reported this to the CSD’s counsel, Dude told Adams to handle his leave of absence requests going forward instead of Hurst, the lawsuit says. Adams told Dude he would handle the requests “as long as they were appropriately documented and the records were accurate” which would involve using the district’s electronic absence management system to record his vacation and time off.

After they spoke, the lawsuit said Dude told Adams that he would be asking Hurst to resign.

“Defendant Dude also indicated, for the first time, that he would be inquiring into some purported verbal complaints against Mr. Adams,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Hurst confided in Mr. Adams that she did not wish to resign, and Defendant Dude did not give her any reason for separating her.  Mr. Adams learned that, after he reported Defendant Dude’s financial misuse of funds, the district began questioning various people about Mr. Adams’ practices. Both Mr. Adams and Ms. Hurst were set up to leave employment by the District after they reported Dr. Dude’s financial misuse of funds.”

This is the second federal lawsuit that has come to light involving allegations that Dude retaliated against school employees who raised questions about things happening within the district.

On Wednesday, Decaturish reported that Cheryl Nahmias, formerly a Decatur High Instructional Coach/International Baccalaureate Coordinator, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Dec. 23 alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. Her son made a racist video which became public in May 2020. She sued the school district after she was demoted and reassigned to a job within CSD’s central office. She claims the demotion was the culmination of a months’ long campaign of retaliation against her for sticking up for her son’s rights and for years of whistleblowing activities within the district. Like Adams, Nahmias’ alleged misconduct was also investigated by attorneys for the district.

Attorney Anita Bala represents both Adams and Nahmias, though their individual cases are not related.

In September, the Decatur School Board gave Dude a contract extension and a raise. Dude, who currently makes $219,000 a year plus performance bonuses will make $255,704 starting in the 2021-2022 school year.

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