Russo in Legal Battle With Virginia School System
Here are previous stories that relate to Pat Russo's time in Moore County.
Former Moore County Schools Superintendent Pat Russo is now locked in a legal battle with his previous employer in Virginia.
Russo, who left Moore County in 2004 to become superintendent of the school system in Hampton, Va., resigned from that job June 30, 2009, with one year left on his contract. He was hired as the new superintendent of the Henrico County Public Schools in Virgina.
The Hampton school board is now suing Russo for $102,220, claiming he must forfeit money put into a retirement fund for him because he broke his contract with the school system, according to stories in The Daily Press newspaper in Hampton.
Russo is countersuing the board for $300,000 in Hampton Circuit Court, claiming it breached a transition agreement made with him in April 2009.
According to The Daily Press, the transition agreement called for an interim superintendent to take Russo's place and for him not to report to work, but he would be paid through June 30, 2009.
But the system withheld his paychecks for May and June, according to Russo's countersuit, saying it would only pay him after he gave back the $102,220.
Under Russo's contract, a retirement annuity was set up as a joint account between both parties, but only Russo's name is on the account, preventing the board from accessing it and taking the money, The Daily Press reported.
The school board contends that Russo set it up that way on purpose, but he says school system employees set it up and that he had nothing to do with the way it was created.
Attorney Stanley Barr, who represents the school system, told The Daily Press that he subpoenaed all information on Russo's retirement accounts.
"Among the questions is whether or not evidence will show that Russo set up the annuity himself," Barr told The Daily Press last month. "He's saying the school board set it up for him, which is not the case. The documents show that he set up the accounts."
Russo alleges in his countersuit that he told the board he believed it was holding secret meetings about his contract and employment, which violates Virginia law, according to The Daily Press. Russo dropped defamation and potential fraud claims against the school board in exchange for the transition agreement, according to the suit. He contends that the agreement trumps the contract and doesn't require him to return the money.
The case is scheduled for a two-day trial beginning Aug. 17 in Hampton Circuit Court.
Russo is no stranger to controversy.
He was hired as superintendent in Moore County in June 1999. His final year, 2003, was marked by controversy.
That summer, Russo came under fire for an incentive program at North Moore High School in which students were given money for improved SAT scores. An assistant superintendent and a principal said Russo asked them to alter or destroy documents showing that money used to pay the students came from state remedial funds.
After a lengthy investigation, the Moore County Board of Education disciplined Russo and others, but decided against firing Russo.
The majority of the board agreed there was no attempt at a cover-up by Russo, and therefore no grounds to fire him. Russo acknowledged that he had made mistakes and said he "took full responsibility for this unfortunate sequence of events." The state ordered the school system to repay some of the misused money.
That same year, more controversy erupted over a vending contract with the school system, which resulted in a lawsuit.
Russo resigned in late February 2004 to take the Hampton job. The resignation came as the school board was considering a two-year contract extension that would have kept him here through June 2007.
Current Superintendent Susan Purser began work in July.
Contact David Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org.-
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