BRADENTON -- In a legal document sent to Manatee County School Board lawyers, the Manatee County School District's professional standards investigator is threatening to sue the district and board if his demands are not met, including nearly $200,000 for "future lost wages and benefits."
Even if the district complies with his terms, Troy Pumphrey, professional standards investigator, isn't ruling out individual action against board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner. Pumphrey is claiming that Miner has damaged his reputation and "hampered his ability to work effectively in the Manatee School District." Pumphrey claims recent statements Miner made about him were defamatory, false and misleading.
Miner, and other outspoken members of the community, have been calling for Pumphrey's resignation for at least five weeks. Miner held a press conference saying Pumphrey lied on his resume -- claiming a license he did not have -- when he applied for a district job in July 2013.
"Mr. Miner and some members of the general public are playing the part of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, calling for Mr. Pumphrey's head," the letter, dated. Nov. 20, reads. Pumphrey has hired Christine Sensenig, of the Sensenig Law Firm in Sarasota. Pumphrey's July 2013 resume indicated he held a C/MA license for private investigators.
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Pumphrey has said he included the line in his resume because he believed the license was active when he completed his job application in July 2013. When Pumphrey learned that additional materials were needed to finish the application process in early 2014, he did not complete it and was subsequently denied the license. By then he was employed with the district and the job doesn't require the license.
Pumphrey's updated resume -- which he used this year to apply for the newly created district position of director of safety and security -- no longer includes the class C/MA license. The district has yet to fill the position of the director of safety and security.
The demand letter asks the school board to accept seven terms. In return for accepting those terms, Pumphrey said he will agree not to sue the district.
"The only way for the attacks to stop without serving the District with yet another lawsuit this month is to provide for Mr. Pumphrey to recoup his losses via a settlement with the District as to his many concerns," the letter reads.
In his terms, Pumphrey said he believes he was not hired as the director of safety and security because of Miner's comments, causing him to lose income estimated at $70,000 over a two-year period. Pumphrey and his lawyer believe a jury could "easily" award Pumphrey $100,000 in damages, according to the letter.
The demands include giving Pumphrey $190,400, the equivalent of two years wages and benefits -- because if Pumphrey left the district he'd need a two-year "cooling off" period before he could find another job; having Superintendent Rick Mills write a reference letter for Pumphrey; having the board read a public statement denouncing Miner's actions and confirming Pumphrey's employment with the district is secure; and having the board cover the legal costs Pumphrey has incurred because of the issue.
"Mr. Pumphrey needs to be made whole and the harassment of, retaliation against, and defamation of Mr. Pumphrey must stop," the letter reads.
The board has not yet decided whether to accept Pumphrey's terms. The board met in executive session Tuesday, prior to the board meeting. In such meetings, the board can talk in private about strategies for dealing with lawsuits.
In the letter, Sensenig wrote that the terms and conditions of the demand letter do not apply individually to Miner. It appears Pumphrey is preparing to sue Miner as an individual, although no action has yet been filed.
Sensenig was not available for comment Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, the school board discussed providing separate legal counsel to Miner. Board attorney Jim Dye cannot represent both the school board as a whole and Miner individually. Miner would need a different lawyer.
Under current policy, the board is obligated to provide counsel to Miner, said Staff Attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum.
"The policy states the school board shall provide legal services for any school board member or employee who is sued for any action arising out of or in the course of employment by the district," Teitelbaum said during the meeting.
The board decided to provide Miner with counsel on Tuesday, but wanted to further discuss the issue during the Jan. 13 meeting. Miner abstained from the vote but later thanked his fellow board members.
"I appreciate all the kind comments," he said. "If you're going to have something like that thrown at you, it's good sense to have legal counsel right off the bat, as the board has from point one when anything like that is received."
As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Miner said he had spoken to some attorneys, but did not confirm whether he had retained an attorney. Miner said he never called for Pumphrey to be fired, but he asked Mills to ask Pumphrey for his resignation.
"If Mr. Mills had followed my suggestion, things would be a lot simpler right now," Miner said.
Miner defended his actions, saying his comments about Pumphrey were truthful, based on facts and proper in his role as an elected official.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.