Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Former Hernando school administrator sues superintendent over job transfer

BROOKSVILLE — Former longtime Hernando County School District administrator Ken Pritz has filed a lawsuit against superintendent Lori Romano, alleging he was wronged when he was assigned to new duties and then released from the district this summer.

Pritz was employed with the district for 34 years and was appointed assistant superintendent of teaching and learning in July 2012. He was a finalist for the superintendent's position before Romano was hired in 2013.

The complaint, filed in Hernando Circuit Court, seeks monetary damages in excess of $15,000.

Citing pending litigation, Romano declined to comment to the Times. Pritz directed questions to his attorney.

The lawsuit alleges that Romano transferred Pritz to the position of warehouse manager in December without notice or warning, a point Romano contests. The suit claims the superintendent then went on to draft a memorandum in Pritz's name, telling principals and district officials that he was excited about the new opportunity, creating a false, deceptive and misleading impression.

Pritz was not aware that the memo was sent out.

After he was moved, Pritz wrote a letter to the School Board and superintendent under the state Whistle-blower's Act, claiming violations of a number of Florida statutes, board policies and ethical codes.

The suit claims Pritz suffered unlawful retaliation after submitting the written complaint.

The evidence?

On May 30, Pritz was notified he would be assigned to the warehouse position for the 2014-15 school year, performing the same duties and responsibilities he had during the past school year, but for less pay.

When Romano moved Pritz to the warehouse in December, she did not strip him of his title or pay — $101,725 a year. His title would have changed to warehouse manager for 2014-15, with his pay reflecting that change. The new position would have paid about $61,453.

The superintendent recommended Pritz for nonreappointment when he objected to the change and did not accept the position. Pritz, like other employees serving on annual contracts, can be terminated without cause.

His attorney, Bruce Snow, says the termination was retaliatory.

Snow argues that Pritz is entitled to reinstatement to the same position as he held before, reinstatement of benefits, compensation for lost wages and other compensatory damages.

On June 10, an investigation by Tampa labor and employment lawyer Tammie L. Rattray found that the memo sent out in December in Pritz's name did not violate School Board policy.

While Rattray acknowledged it was not a best practice, she said there was no evidence that the memo was created or distributed for improper or personal gain.

Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.

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