More than a week after Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Walter Dansby resigned from the position, a pair of Dallas attorneys said they think it’s connected to two lawsuits they’ve filed against Dansby and the district.
Victoria Neave and Mark Scott represent Joe Palazzolo, a former assistant principal at Arlington Heights High School.
Palazzolo received a $2.1 million judgment in Wise County on May 29, after he accused FWISD of retaliating against him for acting as a whistle-blower.
The settlement was raised to $2.7 million following additional post-judgment decisions by the judge.
“The jury clearly saw that Fort Worth ISD had retaliated in this case,” Neave said.
Palazzolo was an assistant principal at Arlington Heights High School in 2010 when he raised concerns about attendance fraud and discrimination.
He said after he raised those concerns, he was demoted, reassigned and eventually fired.
His attorneys said Thursday he hasn’t been able to find a job since.
“His reputation has been ruined by Fort Worth ISD’s actions,” Neave said.
Palazzolo is also suing Dansby, as part of a second lawsuit. Due to that litigation, Palazzolo did not comment and his lawyers had little to say about the case itself.
Neave did say it was related to violating open meeting laws last year, when the FWISD board was meeting in closed session to discuss a possible settlement of Palazzolo’s lawsuit.
During that meeting they allege, in court documents, that Dansby ordered microphones be placed in the room and disparaging remarks made by Dansby about Palazzolo were broadcast online. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages.
Neave and Scott said they found it curious that Dansby resigned just days after the judgment was handed down in the lawsuit.
“We don’t think these are coincidences, all of these are related,” Neave said.
The attorneys also urged Fort Worth ISD to give up an appeal and pay Palazzolo, as well as stop the retaliation against employees.
“A jury wouldn't come back with a jury verdict this big if they did not believe in this case,” Neave said. “FWISD needs to learn and take a cue, that you're responsible and you need to stop.”
Neave said the suit was filed in Wise County because state whistle-blower laws allow for cases to be filed anywhere that is part of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The district responded with a statement, regarding the attorneys’ claims.
"There is no truth to the suggestion that this lawsuit has anything to do with Mr. Dansby’s departure.
The lawsuit is far from over. We believe the jury got it wrong because they didn’t hear all of the evidence. If the jury had heard all of the evidence we are confident they would have decided in favor of the Fort Worth ISD. We fully intend to exercise our appellant remedies and seek a new trial".
Tom Brandt, of Fanning Harper Martinson Branch & Kutchin, P.C., representing Fort Worth ISD.
Neave and Scott scoffed at the idea evidence was not shown during trial and disagree with the district’s attorney on the connection between the lawsuits and resignation.