Attorneys for former Manatee High School football coach Joseph Kinnan say former Manatee schools Superintendent Rick Mills is evading officials trying to serve him with a lawsuit.
Mills, the School Board of Manatee County and former investigator for the school board Troy Pumphreys are defendants in a lawsuit Kinnan and his wife, Linda, filed in September, alleging Mills led a concerted effort to defame Kinnan and force him out of his position as head football coach at Manatee High School.
Mills, reached Thursday, said he had no knowledge of anyone trying to serve him papers.
It appears that Mills, knowing of the allegations against him, is taking affirmative steps to evade or otherwise avoid services.
- Motion filed by attorneys for former Manatee High School football coach Joe Kinnan
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On Dec. 8, Mills had still not been served with the suit, and Kinnan’s attorneys filed a motion for a 120-day extension to serve Mills the paperwork. Judge Don T. Hall granted the extension on Dec. 22.
“It appears that Mills, knowing of the allegations against him, is taking affirmative steps to evade or otherwise avoid services,” the motion states.
In his Dec. 8 motion, Friedman alleged that Mills is evading process servers in both Florida and Illinois.
I think they'll eventually get him served. He's trying to hide.
- Former Manatee High School Football Coach Joe Kinnan
According to the motion, process servers tried to serve Mills at his primary address in Manatee, but tenants living there said they rent from him, and he lives full-time in Chicago. Mills could not be found at four Chicago addresses linked to his name, including one also listed as the home of his wife, Jessica Romando.
The motion states that when servers attempted to serve Mills with the lawsuit at the address listed for both he and his wife, his mother-in-law, Mary Romando, told servers she had never heard of Mills.
Mills said he had no knowledge of anyone trying to serve him or his family members papers, and he denied the allegation that his mother-in-law had said she did not know him.
“My wife took a job in Chicago in August 2015. Hence, I relocated to Chicago that same month — August 2015. I have been at the same Chicago address the entire time. That address is on file with the district and district legal counsel,” Mills wrote in an email.
“I have done nothing to elude service. To my knowledge, no attempt has been made to serve me here in Chicago or for that matter any effort made to contact any family members.”
Mills also said he wanted to see documentation of when and where process servers attempted to contact him.
Manatee school spokesman Mike Barber said he was not able to confirm whether the school had Mills’ address on file late Thursday afternoon because human relations staff members were not in the office.
Kinnan said Thursday he was confident Mills would be served the paperwork soon.
“I think they’ll eventually get him served. He’s trying to hide,” Kinnan said. “They know where he is. He’s out of the state.”
Kinnan said he knows where Mills is, but he could not divulge that information. He also said it was very important to him that Mills remain a part of the lawsuit because, “(Mills) was the instigator.”
The motion states that when servers attempted to serve Mills with the lawsuit at the address listed for both he and his wife, his mother-in-law, Mary Romando, told servers that she had never heard of Mills.
Friedman said most of the time, defendants are served, but if Mills is never officially served with the lawsuit then it would proceed against just the school district and Pumphreys.
Kinnan’s lawsuit, which describes Mills as a “power-hungry beaurocrat,” states that, “(Kinnan) had his decades-long career and reputation destroyed by public officials acting outside the orbit and scope of their authority on numerous instances in an effort to promote their own agenda.”
Kinnan is seeking $15,000 in damages for loss of consortium and a jury trial on eight counts, including breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy.
Kinnan was the head coach of the Manatee High School football team for 29 years and won five state championships during his tenure. He retired in 2014, claiming district officials launched an attack on him under the leadership of Mills.
The school board filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A Jan. 31 hearing is scheduled to rule on the board’s request to dismiss.