Cosby files lawsuit

Two civil lawsuits filed on June 10 in Claiborne County Circuit Court allege wrongdoing by members of the county school board and others. Marty Cosby, who was abruptly pulled from his longstanding position as principal of Forge Ridge School and placed at Tazewell-New Tazewell Primary, states in his civil suits that the defendants in the cases were malicious in their interference of his employment relationship.

The suit also alleges discrimination under the Tennessee Human Rights Act due to Cosby’s age.

Cosby is suing the Claiborne County Board of Education as one entity and, in particular, school board members Brian Pendleton and Sam Owens, who is also the county finance officer. The civil action also names Connie Holdway, director of schools.

In one suit, Cosby alleges harassment by Holdway and humiliation by Owens.

“The defendant, Sam Owens, told certain individuals in the Claiborne County community that he personally wanted to humiliate the plaintiff (Cosby) as a result of the plaintiff having supported a candidate for county mayor in opposition to a county mayoral candidate supported by the defendant, Sam Owens,” one lawsuit reads, in part.

Cosby claims in the document Owens threatened retaliation for Cosby’s support of Dennis Cook to the exclusion of incumbent Jack Daniels during the August 2014 election.

The document states Owens and Holdway, “with an attitude of indifference,” individually and collectively “in order to advance their own personal and political agenda,” maliciously planned economic harm to Cosby by transferring him some 22 miles from his employment.

The suit also alleges Cosby was discriminated against and deprived of equal opportunity under the law when he was replaced by a substantially younger person.

Cosby claims in the lawsuit Owens and Holdway violated state statutes including ones under the headings of Procurement of Breach of Contract Unlawful Damages, the Tennessee Teacher Code of Ethics, Public Officers and Employees, Employer Practices, Official Misconduct and Official Oppression.

Cosby is seeking compensatory and punitive damages not to exceed $1.5 million plus court costs and attorney fees. He also demands reinstatement as principal of Forge Ridge School with all salaries and fringe benefits intact.

The second civil suit, brought against Pendleton, alleges malicious and reckless disregard for the truth. According to the document, Pendleton made comments about Cosby’s Christian standing and leadership abilities. The suit alleges Pendleton spread false rumors that Cosby had “done something bad.”

“The defendant (Pendleton) also made statements to the plaintiff’s (Cosby) family and friends that the plaintiff was vindictive, that the plaintiff’s staff was in fear of him, and that the plaintiff was selfish, only wanting what was best for the plaintiff,” the lawsuit reads, in part.

At the time, the lawsuit alleges, Pendleton was aware his statements about Cosby were false and defamatory.

Cosby is asking the court to grant additional compensatory, punitive and pecuniary damages not to exceed $700,000 in this second lawsuit against Pendleton.

Due to legal advice, none of the defendants in these two cases are able to comment at this time.

Cosby is represented by Lafollette attorney David H. Dunaway.

Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.

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