A former superintendent under fire over his $1 million retirement payout said he is terribly hurt, angry and deeply wounded by the allegations against him.
The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township filed a lawsuit last year accusing Terry Thompson of concocting an elaborate scheme to defraud the school district out of millions of dollars.
"There was no scheme, there was no artifice, there was no fraud," said Thompson's attorney, Daniel Trachtman. "Did he think he was entitled to relatively high compensation and generous benefits? Of course he did. He had a high opinion of the work he was doing."
Friday marks the first time in a year of controversy that Thompson or his attorneys have spoken on camera about the issue.
Thompson filed a countersuit this week against the district for breach of contract, claiming some school board members didn't even read his contracts.
"If someone wants too much money in your view, it's your obligation to say no," Trachtman said. "It's not to say yes and then renege when there's some kind of public outcry."
Thompson claims the district prematurely ended his $1,300-a-day superintendent emeritus consulting job Jan. 31, 2011, once it was exposed by the Call 6 Investigators.
"There's nothing in the contract that bright and capable people can't understand," Trachtman said. "If they can't understand it, then it's really incumbent on them to seek help, and that help was available (from the board's counsel)."
Thompson claims the district still owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, deferred compensation, retirement contributions and severance.
"It's a substantial amount of money," Trachtman said. "Courts typically regard contracts as things that should be enforced."
Thompson, through his attorney, also questioned the school district spending more than $400,000 in attorney fees on an investigation into the matter.
"He certainly thinks litigation costs on both sides are regrettable," Trachtman said. "He didn't file the lawsuit."
Longtime Wayne Township taxpayer Russ Feuquay told RTV6 he agrees with Thompson, and said he thinks the school district should drop the lawsuit.
"My ultimate concern is the children of Wayne Township are going to lose out," Feuquay said. "We have Lynhurst 7th and 8th Grade Center already in danger of being taken over by the state."
Trachtman told RTV6 that Thompson has no choice but to fight back.
"He is a guy who is terribly hurt, he's angry," Trachtman said. "He deeply regrets a lawsuit was filed against him, and he deeply regrets he's in a position where he has to fight the lawsuit. He wishes this were not happening."
Neither school district officials nor their attorney, Linda Pence, have responded to requests for comment on Thompson's counterclaim.
Trachtman told RTV6 that the legal battle will likely stretch on for a year or more.
Meanwhile, legislation is moving forward at the Statehouse that would require superintendent contracts disclose dollar amounts and require a public meeting at least seven days prior to entering into a contract with a school superintendent.
The bill had its second reading in the House on Friday and removed language that would have limited the length of superintendent contracts, and added language that extends the transparency requirement to charter schools.
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