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Greene v. Greenwood Public School District

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

April 24, 2019

MONTRELL GREENE PLAINTIFFS
v.
GREENWOOD PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Randy Clark, Deirdre Mayes, and Samantha Milton, three members of the Greenwood Public School District Board of Trustees, voted successfully to terminate Montrell Greene from his job as superintendent of the GPSD. They did not provide him with a hearing before doing so. Greene sued the GPSD, Clark, Mayes, and Milton for depriving him of a vested property interest in his employment contract without due process.

         The Court today takes up numerous motions filed by the parties: Greene's motion for partial summary judgment [89], all defendants' motion for summary judgment [91], Clark, Mayes, and Milton's motion for summary judgment [93], Greene's cross motion for partial summary judgment on the validity of extensions in his employment contract [100], and the defendants' motion to strike [105] Greene's cross motion. Despite the number of motions, the questions they present are simple. The Court must determine if there are genuine issues of material about:

1. Whether Greene had a vested property interest in an employment contract and its extensions at the time the GPSD terminated him;
2. Whether an official policy of the GPSD was the moving force behind Greene's termination without a hearing; and
3. Whether Clark, Mayes, and Milton are entitled to qualified immunity because they reasonably relied on Mississippi law to terminate Greene without first giving him a hearing.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds it clear that Greene possessed a vested interest in his employment agreement, that the GPSD's official acts caused Greene's constitutional injury; and that Clark, Mayes, and Milton are not entitled to qualified immunity. The Court therefore grants summary judgment on the issue of liability in favor of Greene, and denies the Defendants' motions for summary judgment and to strike.

         Background

          I. Factual Background On April 10, 2013, the GPSD and Greene entered into an employment agreement for Greene to be the Superintendent of Schools. See Contract, [1-1] at 6.[1] The contract initially ran for a term of three years, terminating on June 30, 2016. Id. The contract provided that the term would extend automatically for one year if Greene received satisfactory performance evaluations. Id.

         On February 6, 2014, the GPSD Board of Trustees voted to extend Greene's contract for one year. February 6, 2014, Minutes [91 -1 ] at 1. Green and the GPSD formally executed an amendment extending the contract term to June 30, 2016, on October 17, 2014. Amendment to Contract [91-2]. On January 27, 2015, the GPSD again voted to extend Greene's contract by a year, and formally executed that amendment on January 29, 2015. January 27, 2015, Minutes [92-3] at 3; Amendment to Contract [92-4].

         The GPSD Board of Trustees experienced a change in membership between January 2015 and January 2016. On January 4, 2016 the board was composed of Clark, Mayes, and Milton, and non-party George Ellis. Clark, Mayes, and Milton called for a special session of the Board of Trustees that day. The notice of the special session did not specifically state that the Board was considering Greene's termination but only that the Board would discuss "Personnel Matters." Notice [89-1] at 5. Although Greene was present at the meeting, there is no evidence to suggest he was aware his termination was being considered. The parties have not provided the minutes from the session to the Court.

         The Board went into a private executive session, at which Greene was not present, and immediately began discussing him. George Ellis Depo. [89-3] at 39. Ellis and the school board attorney recommended bringing Greene into the executive session, but the other members declined. Id. at 46; Randy Clark Depo. [89-2] at 61-62. Clark, Mayes, and Milton voted to terminate Greene. The Board exited the executive session and informed Greene that he had been terminated, effective immediately. Greene asked whether he could address the board, and Mayes told him he could not. Ellis Depo. at 47. Greene did not appeal the Board's decision to chancery court.

         II. Procedural Background

         Greene brought this suit against the GPSD and the Board members who voted to terminate him alleging, among other things, that the Board terminated him without providing him a pre-termination hearing in violation of his 14th Amendment due process rights.

         The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing in part, that because Greene failed to take an appeal to chancery court for the Board's action under Miss. Code Ann. § 37-9-113, he had not made a claim that defendants violated his due process rights. This court ...


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