Buckley loses contract lawsuit against school district

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2001

After five hours of deliberation, an Adams County jury voted 11-1 in favor of the Natchez-Adams School District over former superintendent Dr. Melvin Buckley.

&uot;I feel like the school district has been exonerated from the charges,&uot; said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

Buckley sued the school district for breach of contract because he said it did not honor a settlement agreement made when the school board opted not to renew Buckley’s superintendent contract for the 1993-94 school year. The verdict was a hard fought one for the jury. After four hours of deliberation, Circuit Court Judge Forrest &uot;Al&uot; Judge polled the jury to find that the jurors were divided 7-5, with three jurors saying a verdict was impossible and the rest saying they were not sure if a verdict was possible.

&uot;I could tell from their faces it was draining them all,&uot; said Davis, who thanked the jurors for their efforts.

Nine votes are needed in a civil lawsuit for a jury to issue a verdict.

&uot;I just want to commend the jurors for working with it for the past (four) days,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I know it took them a long time to come to their decision.&uot;

During the four-day trial, Buckley’s attorney John Mooney argued that the school district broke its agreement by refusing to sign a &uot;special projects&uot; contract with Buckley.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Buckley was to step down as superintendent and earn a salary of $18,000 a year for two years. The extra two years would have given him the 25 years Buckley said he wanted for state retirement.

But the school district argued that Buckley never signed its contracts and a contract submitted by Buckley was not legally enforceable.

Mooney said he was obviously disappointed with the verdict. &uot;I just felt objectively looking at the case it’s very hard to believe the jury presented with the facts and instructed with the applicable law would render a verdict for the defendant,&uot; Mooney said.

He said Buckley will look the possibility of appeal.

Buckley said said he was disappointed by the verdict and also by a court decision removing individual attorneys and school board members as defendants in the case, making the only defendant the Natchez-Adams School District.

&uot;Of course I’ve got no complaint against the school district as a public entity,&uot; he said.

Buckley thought the facts of the case should have been clearer to the jurors.

&uot;I think Mr. Mooney presented the facts fairly,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know how they interpreted them. I think the facts spoke for themselves.&uot;