Lawsuit says BISD paid departing Ozen coach to stay silent

Keeath Magee

A petition for injunctive relief and temporary restraining order was requested Wednesday, April 2, by city resident Melinda Harper against the Beaumont Independent School District due to the agency paying alleged hush money to a former Ozen High School football coach that resigned from the district in Febru­ary.

According to the filing, the payoff scheme began when former coach Keeath Magee “became unhappy with his job assignment in the BISD. Upon information and belief, (he) developed several legitimate com­plaints regarding his job assignment with BISD and threatened to make those complaints public. Upon information and belief, (Magee) was told that if he would voluntarily resign from his teaching position and remain silent about his complaints and keep them confidential, BISD would pay him through the term of his contract, even though he resigned and even if he secured other employment.”

Magee, according to BISD records presented in the court filing, penned notice to Ozen High School Principal Odis Norris, assistant superintendent Patricia Lambert and athletic director Rodney Saveat outlining multiple infractions perpetuated by BISD administrators including retaliatory practices and unsolicited requests to deviate from state education law and procedure. Shortly after alleging the impropriety committed by district leaders, Magee agreed to a “Voluntary Separation Agreement and Mutual Release.”

The agreement contained wording that would allow Magee to col­lect paychecks from the school district for four months after his resig­nation was accepted by the BISD Board of Trust­ees. For the record, Trustees Tom Neild and Mike Neil said they were never advised of such an agreement before it was negotiated by Superin­tendent Timothy Chargois and other district officials.

In the agreement, Chargois negoti­ated the payment of district funds to a coach who “left to pursue other career opportunities,” as long as the coach agreed to “not sue or participate, unless required by a court order, in any federal or state judicial or state administrative proceeding against the District or its Board, Board members, officers, employees, representatives, agents or attorneys, in their official or individual capacity.”

Furthermore, in order to keep his name on the payroll although Magee has already moved to Mississippi to accept a position of employment there, the former coach agreed to “refer any third party inquiries regarding Magee’s employ­ment with the district to the Superinten­dent of the District or his designee.” In addition, Magee was given a neutral let­ter of recommendation upon his depar­ture from BISD in exchange for agreeing not to “make disparaging public remarks” about BISD.

Harper’s attorney, Mike Getz, asserts in the litigation filing that, “At no place on the Board Agenda is there any posting that would authorize the Board of Trustees to consider any claim that may be brought by KEEATH MAGEE or for any attorney or the superintendent for BISD to take any action to attempt to settle any potential claim that might be brought by KEEATH MAGEE. In fact, in execu­tive session, there was no discussion held regarding KEEATH MAGEE oth­er than the mention of the fact that he had submitted his resignation, effec­tive February 19, 2014. There was no discussion in executive or open session regarding any potential claim or claims that might be brought by KEEATH MAGEE. There was no discussion in executive or open session about attempting to negotiate or settle any potential claims that could be brought by KEEATH MAGEE. There was no discussion in executive or open session that would authorize either the BISD Superintendent or the BISD attorney to settle or enter into a ‘Voluntary Separa­tion Agreement and Mutual Release’ with KEEATH MAGEE.”

For those reasons, and others noted in the 15-page case filing, Getz said he is seeking “legal and equitable” relief for his client.