Former state superintendent candidate files lawsuit against AL education officials

Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 at 1:00 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Dr. Craig Pouncey, the Jefferson County superintendent and a former state superintendent finalist, has filed a civil lawsuit against several Alabama State Board of Education officials.

The lawsuit lists eight charges against BOE President Pro Tem Mary Scott Hunter, Deputy State Superintendent for career and technical education and workforce development Philip Cleveland, general counsel Juliana Dean, associate general counsel James Ward, associate general counsel Susan Crowther and more than a dozen other unidentified defendants.

The charges are conspiracy, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, invasion of privacy, defamation by Hunter, defamation by Ward, outrage and negligent misconduct.

Pouncey has asked for a "fair and just amount of compensatory and punitive damages to be determined by a jury, plus interest and costs."

In the complaint, Pouncey alleges the defendants conspired to falsely accuse him of plagiarizing his dissertation, used the Alabama Ethics Commission to hurt him, intentionally publicized information that would place him in a false light and intentionally conducted a scheme to ruin his name.

The complaint also accuses Hunter of knowingly publishing or making false statements about Pouncey being under an investigation by the Ethics Commission.

"The Defendants intentionally and maliciously conspired to disparage Dr. Pouncey's reputation; to place him in a false light to the public; to have him investigated and prosecuted for crimes he did not commit; to attempt to get Samford University to revoke Dr. Pouncey's doctorate degree," the complaint alleges.

Last year, Pouncey's attorney, Kenneth Mendelsohn, says someone, reportedly inside the State Department of Education, fabricated an anonymous letter that defamed Pouncey and attacked his credibility.

Mendelsohn said the letter was copied and placed into the packets for each State School Board member.  The letter claimed Pouncey cheated and plagiarized his doctoral dissertation and used state resources, something he flatly denies.

The anonymous letter was also submitted to the Ethics Commission.

Mendelsohn says these allegations persuaded votes in the state superintendent search.

Last year, Pouncey was a candidate for state superintendent. In August, the Alabama Board of Education picked former Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, Michael Sentance, as the new leader for Alabama's public schools.

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