By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The Craig Pouncey lawsuit is headed for mediation.
Pouncey, the Jefferson County Schools superintendent, filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging various Alabama State Department of Education employees and a State School Board member conspired to block him from becoming the state school superintendent.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Roman Shaul has now ordered the parties in that lawsuit into mediation and asked that they reach a settlement by Dec. 31.
Retired Montgomery judge Eugene Reese will serve as a mediator.
The mediation order is a final attempt by Shaul to avoid a trial in the case. But it also is an indication that he believes Pouncey’s allegations have enough merit that a trial, without an agreement in mediation, is unavoidable.
Pouncey filed the lawsuit in late February, naming interim state superintendent Philip Cleveland, ALSDE attorneys Juliana Dean, Susan Crowther and James Ward and state school board member Mary Scott Hunter.
Pouncey alleges those five conspired, through the spreading of false ethics complaints, to prevent him from landing the state superintendent’s job, for which he was the clear favorite. That job eventually went to Michael Sentance, who was fired by the board last month.
The alleged scheme worked like this: an unknown person put together allegations, using old Pouncey emails, that claimed he misused state employees and cheated on his doctoral dissertation seven years earlier. Those allegations were anonymously distributed to all board members.
Only Hunter took them seriously. She gave the allegations to ALSDE attorney Juliana Dean, and then Hunter made multiple calls to the Alabama Ethics Commission to discuss those allegations. Dean later hand-delivered the allegations to the Ethics Commission.
In addition, Ward and Crowther contacted Samford University, where Pouncey received his doctorate, reported the anonymous allegations and attempted to get Samford to open an investigation. The university refused.
The Ethics Commission, just days before public interviews for the state superintendent’s position, issued a letter stating it was reviewing allegations against Pouncey.
All over allegations that were anonymous and seven years old – both of which should have prevented an ethics investigation at all.