Former Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan has filed a lawsuit against the Manatee County School Board and former officials, claiming libel and slander.
“The School District is aware that an action was filed, but the School District has not yet been served,” school district general counsel Mitchell Teitelbaum said in a statement. “The legal pleadings will be analyzed for further action to be taken on behalf and in defense of the school district.”
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Manatee, names former superintendent Rick Mills and former school district investigator Troy Pumphrey as defendants in the suit, as well as the school district. Kinnan’s wife, Linda Kinnan, is also listed as a plaintiff.
In July 2014, Kinnan announced that he was taking medical leave of absence but then retired in August 2014.
His final season with the team was in 2013. He retired from the school district in August 2014 after claiming district officials were retaliating against him and in 2015, Kinnan became an assistant football coach job at the University of South Florida.
Reached Wednesday, Kinnan declined to comment, saying he was referring all media requests to his lawyers. Kinnan is being represented by the Romano Law Group, out of Lake Worth. The law firm also represented former Manatee High School principal Bob Gagnon in his lawsuit against the district.
John Romano, the lawyer, did not immediately return a request for comment.
In the lawsuit, which runs 84 pages, Kinnan and his lawyers lay out a series of events leading to nine counts, including:
▪ Defamation, claiming the defendants “intentionally communicated, fabricated, or otherwise conveyed false and misleading defamatory information about, or concerning” Kinnan to third parties.
▪ Breach of contract, claiming the defendants “breached the contract by failing to deal fairly and in good faith.”
▪ Intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming Kinnan has suffered “severe emotional distress, physical ailment, depression, nervousness, anxiety, and worry,” because of the direct acts of the defendants.
▪ Interference with a contractual relationship, claiming Mills and Pumphrey initiated “bogus investigations,” among other actions, in an attempt to interfere with Kinnan’s contract with the district.
▪ Negligence, claiming the school district failed to properly investigate and hire employees, specifically pointing to Pumphrey as an example. “Such a breach was a failure that impacted the ethical and due process considerations” for Kinnan, the lawsuit says.
▪ Abuse of process, claiming the defendants “improperly and in a perverted manner, used the legal system and alternative judicial resources to accomplish their ulterior purpose – namely to harass, cause emotional distress, and destroy the namesake” of Kinnan.
▪ Malicious prosecution, claiming the “probable cause” used to investigate Kinnan was made up by the defendants.
▪ Civil conspiracy, claiming Mills and Pumphrey worked together in an attempt to bring down Kinnan.
▪ Loss of consortium, with Kinnan’s wife claiming the actions of all the defendants caused her to suffer the “loss of her husband’s consortium, companionship, comfort, society, love, affections and services.”
For the first eight counts, Kinnan is seeking a trial by jury; judgment for compensatory damages and missed employment opportunities, irreparable damage to his reputation and; any further relief the court deems necessary. On the final count, loss of consortium, the Kinnans are seeking damages in excess of $15,000.
Both Mills and Pumphrey left the district under contentious circumstances. Mills retired early after saying he felt he lost the confidence of the school board in April 2015.
Pumphrey’s contract with the district was non-renewed in May 2015 after an investigation into false statements on Pumphrey’s resume.
Pumphrey then sued the district and was awarded $27,500.