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DeKalb School Board settles lawsuit filed by former COO Ben Estill

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DeKalb School Board settles lawsuit filed by former COO Ben Estill

DeKalb County School District Administration and Industrial Complex on Mountain Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School Board voted June 20 to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former COO Ben Estill.

His whistleblower lawsuit, filed in March 2021, alleges he was terminated for asking questions about irregularities in the district’s finances. He later died in a car crash.

News of the settlement was first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Decaturish requested the settlement after the June 20 meeting, but the district didn’t provide it, with an attorney later saying they were unable to find the original records request. The school board routinely votes on items out of executive session without disclosing what they’ve voted on, which makes it difficult for the public to follow what actions the board has taken.

As part of the settlement, Estill’s attorneys will receive $57,500 and $6,060 will go to a mediator.

DeKalb Schools didn’t admit any wrongdoing, according to the terms of the settlement.

When Estill was fired, WSB-TV reported that Estill was the subject of an investigation by the district alleging Estill engaged in “unprofessional conduct,” that included harassment, creating a hostile work environment and bullying. He was also accused of drinking too much alcohol at a professional conference.

Estill’s lawsuit offers a different version of events and accuses former superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris of retaliating against him for raising his concerns about the district’s finances. His lawsuit references concerns about special purpose local option sales tax money spending.

For more information about that lawsuit, click here.

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