By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County School board voted 4 to 1 with Gary Matheson opposing to have Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox sign Barry Bishop’s severance agreement on its behalf.
The vote took place during a special called meeting on Monday, November 4, allowing the former JCHS Transportation Supervisor to retire with state benefits and receive a gross amount of $20,000.04.
The amount includes unused leave days and lost income. According to legal counsel, this is far less expensive and less risky than continuing legal proceedings.
The decision now puts the Bishop case, which began after he was arrested on January 3, 2018, for one count of theft over $10,000
to rest. TBI agents determined the total amount to be approximately $50,000. The public was
outraged after learning that Bishop is still technically an employee of Johnson County School System.
“I know this has been ongoing for months,” said Johnson County School Board Lawyer Chris McCarty. “It’s been very stressful for everyone involved. At no point is this going to end unless we end it now.
McCarty added, “If we don’t put this to bed, Mr. Bishop can file a suit.
Even if he is dead wrong, just defending a suit would cost you more than what is in this agreement. A lot more.”
Bishop is an “at-will” employee. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at-will employees can be terminated at any time for any legal reason without incurring legal liability. Employees may also quit without any reason or legal repercussions. McCarty mentioned that Bishop might call his termination arbitrary if he is found not guilty. This type of legal case is plead-driven and expensive to handle. Insurance does not cover this type of suit. To McCarty’s knowledge, there are not similar cases across Tennessee happening at the moment.
“The number itself takes into account that we do think we have the better end of the argument legally. If I didn’t think that, I’d recommend you give him his pay from the day he was on leave until now,” said McCarty. “It also acknowledges that Mr. Bishop is saying that he does probably have a weaker case but has enough to kick up some dirt.”
McCarty brought the agreement before Bishop and his lawyer Caleb McDaniel several months ago. Ready and confident of what was to come, Bishop had already signed the severance agreement before Monday’s meeting.
The deal became official when the board authorized Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox to sign it at the end of the meeting, which ends the Bishop case and includes a release that protects the Johnson County School Board and its members from possible legal action.
“Within minutes of the news posted on the Tomahawk Facebook page, members of the community did not hesitate to express their thoughts, many of which included great disappointment, loss of confidence in, and outrage toward the school board.
For an opportunity to comment on the apparent backlash following the vote, The Tomahawk reached out to Simcox for her response to the, which she gave without hesitation.
“The board made its decision off of Mr. McCarty’s advice, “said Simcox. “I support the decision completely. He is very knowledgeable in his field.”
Barry Bishop is officially retired as of November 1, 2019.
Come the parties, Barry Bishop (“Employee”) and the Johnson County Board of Education (“Employer”) and enter into this Separation Agreement (“Agreement”) confirming the terms of employee’s voluntary retirement from employer.
WHEREAS, Employee is facing criminal prosecution, and wishes to focus on defending his name and reputation;
WHEREAS, Employer wishes to focus on educating students, and simply move on from this situation in court;
THEREFORE, in consideration for both sides agreeing to simply go their separate ways without further appeal or other litigation, Employee and Employer agree on the following:
1. Retirement: Effective November 1, 2019, Employee will submit his notice of voluntary retirement to Employer, Employee has been on suspension status, and shall remain so until his retirement date.
2. Reimbursement: In consideration for Section No. 1, Employee will receive a one-time, lump sum payment of $20,000.04 (minus standard deductions) as reimbursement for a portion of his wages that have accrued during the suspension period. Said sum shall be considered wages, and shall be reported to Employee in 2019 via a Form W-2
3. Release: In consideration for Section No. 2, Employee hereby waives:
a. Any and all rights to appeal or contest his suspension;
b. Any and all claims, suits, damages, and/or allegations related in any way to his employment with Employer; and
c. Employee understands that he is providing a GENERAL RELEASE of all claims to Employer, and acknowledges that he has been advised by counsel prior to executing this Agreement. “Employer” as used herein include the Johnson County Board of Education, as well as its members, director, agents, administrators, and employees.
4. No Admission: By executing this Agreement, neither employee nor Employer admit to any type of wrongdoing; instead the parties enter into this Agreement simply to resolve any claims/disputes and go their separate ways. As such, this Agreement and any related discussions should be considered a compromise under Tenn. R Evid. 408.
5. Entirety: This Agreement contains and constitutes the entire understanding between employee and Employer, thus superseding and voiding all prior communications, agreements, discussions, and the like.
6. Execution: This Agreement may be executed in one or more counterparts, and each of which shall be deemed an original constituting one document.
By signing below, the parties acknowledge having read and understood all of the foregoing terms and obligations. Further, the Director of Schools also acknowledges that this Agreement was presented to and discussed by the Board of Educations during a public meeting, and then approved by a majority vote of the Board’s members.