Judge dismisses ex-superintendent’s suit against Montgomery school board

Former Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Powell.
Former Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Powell. File photo.

A judge has dismissed a 2015 lawsuit filed by former Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Powell against school board members who suspended and later fired him.

Special judge Eddy Coleman said in a June 19 order dismissing the lawsuit that Powell failed to produce audiotapes and other evidence that he claimed to have.

The school board fired Powell and in 2016 the Education Professional Standards Board revoked Powell’s superintendent certification until 2020, concluding in a recommended order that Powell “drove many good educators out of the district and crushed the careers of others” in his search for celebrity as a superintendent who turned around school districts.

In addition, the Montgomery County school district has paid about $1.2 million in settlements to former district employees who, in general, claimed that their careers were damaged by Powell.

The court case came about after the school board suspended Powell in 2015 and he sought an injunction in Montgomery Circuit Court asking the school board to immediately rescind his suspension. Powell alleged that there was no provision under Kentucky law for suspension of a superintendent and that the board’s actions slandered and defamed him.

Coleman, who is from Pike County but was acting as a special judge in the Montgomery County civil suit, said in the June 19 order that he had asked Powell to produce all audiotapes, writings or recordings taken of school board members, district employees, and the board of education’s counsel that Powell claimed he had — and that Powell had only partially complied.

In dismissing the lawsuit, the judge found that Powell “has been disobedient with the Court’s Order despite multiple opportunities to comply and based on Powell’s own prior disingenuous statements under oath.”

The judge said that the lack of compliance was Powell’s fault, not that of an attorney.

Powell told the Herald-Leader this week that he would appeal the judge’s ruling. He said he had made several attempts to get the audiotapes but was unsuccessful.

Powell said after he was suspended, the school board seized his “computer and all data.”

He said two employees brought him some belongings, including a jump drive that was supposed to have some of the private recordings. At the time of his deposition in the case, Powell said he had not reviewed the various jump drives and “assumed that the audios were contained on them. So, during my deposition, I answered truthfully and honestly concerning what I thought was in my possession.”

He also said school board members had public recordings in their possession but did not produce them.

“They have refused to provide me the data from the computer I used as well as denied access to records, including email. More importantly, the audios are of no consequence in regards to the defamation and unlawful activity of the board,” Powell said. “Multiple documents, witnesses, and transcripts of other testimony support every allegation that I have made.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears