Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Education

Principal files suit charging invasion of privacy, libel against Hernando superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — Embattled Hernando County principal Tim Urban has filed a lawsuit against superintendent Lori Romano, accusing her and the school district of invasion of privacy and libel.

Urban, now the principal at the district's alternative school, Endeavor Academy, filed a complaint in Hernando County Circuit Court against Romano late last month tied to an investigation into his handling of bullying complaints last year while he was the principal at Eastside Elementary School. He said the investigation was released prematurely and without his rebuttal, damaging his reputation and causing him mental anguish. He's seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

On Jan. 22, the superintendent gave Urban a disciplinary letter, reprimanding him for a lack of "follow through" for failing to properly report three cases of teacher-on-teacher harassment at Eastside.

Romano said it was his job as principal to conduct an investigation, make a determination and communicate the findings. While Urban investigated the complaints and determined them to have merit, the investigation was filed into storage without district officials receiving the file, according to the district's investigation. Nobody was disciplined.

Urban disagreed with Romano's determination and filed a response letter.

In the letter, Urban claims district staffers knew about his investigation and purposely misled or withheld information from the superintendent. As Eastside's principal, he said, he performed a thorough investigation, made a timely determination and communicated his findings as directed by former superintendent Bryan Blavatt.

"I was disappointed to hear the blatant fabrication of misinformation that had been provided to you regarding the specific instructions that (Blavatt) informed us all to follow," he wrote.

He said he is the victim of chronic retaliation.

In the letter, he requested Romano to reinvestigate and consider removing the discipline letter. He asked that his name be cleared.

Romano declined to comment about the pending lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, filed March 27, Urban claims the superintendent or another district employee released a copy of the closed investigation to the media, including the Tampa Bay Times, without providing the rebuttal letter. It also says the district did not adhere to the mandatory 10-day waiting period before releasing the investigation.

The lawsuit contends that failing to include the rebuttal led to inaccuracies.

The Times received a copy of the investigation on Feb. 3 — after the 10-day period.

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