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D-B administrator alleges harassment

COAL GROVE — A long-time employee of the Dawson-Bryant Board of Education is suing some of his employers, alleging discrimination and harrassment.

Eric Holmes filed the lawsuit Dec. 14 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and names superintendent Dennis DeCamp and three board members, Jamie Murphy, Deanna Holliday and Debbie Drummond as defendants, as well as the district as a whole.

In a prepared statement, Decamp and board president Murphy said the lawsuit is “without merit.”

Two board members, Jim Beals and Sadie Mulkey, were not named in the lawsuit. Holmes is seeking “an amount in excess of $25,000” in both compensatory and punitive damages.

Holmes was an elementary school principal until he was reassigned to an administrative position approximately a year ago.

He had applied unsuccessfully to be superintendent when then-superintendent James Payne accepted a position as the county board of education but the board chose DeCamp instead.

In his lawsuit, Holmes said his troubles began after DeCamp was hired as superintendent and the three board members began to seek reelection to the board.

Holmes said he was reassigned to the central office and once the three board members won re election, they “intensified the harassment and humiliation.”

Holmes alleged the defendants consistently accused him of not finishing his assignments, even though he had done his work properly, questioned his whereabouts during the school day and accused him of performing personal business when he should have been working even though they knew this was not true, falsely accused him of using his computer at school to campaign for other board candidates and to disseminate information about a prior investigation regarding DeCamp and a female student at another school district.

Holmes further alleged Decamp, Murphy, Holliday and Drummond have made false and derogatory statements about him “in the community and amongst his peers” in an effort to tarnish his reputation.”

Holmes contended in his lawsuit other employees of similar rank and status who supported the three board members did not have to endure the harrassment he has endured.

Holmes alleged in his lawsuit that “Said wrongful acts and/or conduct by defendants were performed knowingly, wrongfully, wantonly, willfully, intentionally and/or with reckless disregard for the right of the plaintiff.”

Holmes also accused DeCamp of conducting prayer meetings at the office and teaching the Bible during those meetings.

Holmes said in his lawsuit DeCamp regularly asks him to attend these meetings, which he has declined to do based on his own religious beliefs.

Holmes alleged he is the victim of religious discrimination because of the lawsuit.

He also alleged the board members have violated the state’s Open Meetings, or “Sunshine” laws when they met to hire DeCamp.

When contacted at the board office, DeCamp issued a written statement he said was on his own behalf as well as that of Murphy.

In the statement, DeCamp and Murphy said none of the allegations are true and denied Holmes had lost any wages as a result of any treatment he received and that he was reassigned to the administrative office only after he applied for the job.

The statement said the lawsuit will be handled by the district’s liability insurance carrier and its attorneys in an effort to spare a financially strained district from expending money to fight the lawsuit.

Murphy was contacted individually for a comment. A message was left on her cellular phone but was not returned.

Drummond was contacted by telephone and declined to comment because she had not seen a copy of the lawsuit. Holliday was contacted at her place of work but was not immediately available.