FAYETTEVILLE -- A judge dismissed a lawsuit Monday filed by former Fayetteville Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Wendt against a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.
Washington County Circuit Judge John Threet found the lawsuit did not contain valid legal claims.
Wendt filed the lawsuit in early August against Shae Lynn Newman, claiming her interference was responsible for the School Board firing him and for his inability to find work. The lawsuit sought not less than $850,000 in damages from Newman.
Wendt later amended his suit to add a defamation claim, contending that Newman, through her attorney, published on two occasions information accusing Wendt of sexual harassment that she knew to be false.
The motion to dismiss filed by Newman claimed that Wendt sued her because she reported his behavior to school officials.
"Wendt laments his lack of employment and faults Ms. Newman for that status. If Wendt wants someone to blame for being out of a job and 'damaged in the marketplace,' he should look in the mirror," according to Newman's motion. "His ongoing efforts to intimidate and harass the defendant in this case is an abuse of process and further demonstrates his complete lack of character."
Threet found there was nothing improper about Newman reporting Wendt's actions, and it did not amount to defamation. On the claim that Newman improperly interfered with the business expectancy between Wendt and his employer and that her actions led to his termination, Threet found Newman was not a third party to Wendt's employment, as would be required under the law.
Neither Wendt nor Newman attended Monday's hearing.
"We're happy that the judge found neither claim is valid," Suzanne Clark, Newman's attorney, said after the hearing.
Wendt was represented by Randy Coleman of Little Rock.
An investigation by school officials completed in March found there was no basis for a sexual harassment claim and no action should be taken against Wendt, according to the lawsuit.
Newman's lawyer went on the offensive after that finding and made confidential information available to the public, identifying Wendt while concealing Newman's identity, according to the lawsuit. Clark put pressure on the School Board to fire Wendt, according to his lawsuit.
Wendt contended that material provided to the public was engineered to present a false picture of the relationship between Wendt and Newman. The only objective of Newman's and her attorney's actions was to ruin Wendt's career and reputation, according to Wendt's lawsuit.
Clark filed the sexual harassment claim with the School District on March 14. She presented Chris Lawson, district general counsel, with voice recordings of Wendt and copies of text messages between Newman and Wendt supporting her client's complaint, Clark said in a news release.
Clark filed a complaint May 25 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Fayetteville School District and School Board. The complaint to the commission details Wendt's abusive conduct after Newman refused to continue to have sex with him, according to a news release by Clark. Newman complained that Wendt stalked her, sent her numerous text messages while she was at home and at work and told her she could be fired for her actions, according to the release.
The board unanimously voted to terminate Wendt's contract June 18.
The board cited a breach of contract by violating district policy. Wendt violated the policy through his derogatory and offensive conduct and communication with a female subordinate employee, according to Susan Kendall, a lawyer with the Kendall Law Firm in Rogers and the School Board's legal counsel.
Metro on 11/09/2018
Print Headline: Ex-school chief's suit against accuser ends