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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA TALLAHASSEE DIVISION

KAREN S. PEDDIE, KEVIN JACK PEDDIE, KYLER PEDDIE, KAMILLE PEDDIE MANN, MANDIE FOWLER, JASON FOWLER, DANA S. BURNS, And STEPHANIE HOFHEINZ, Plaintiffs, vs. LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD and GLORIA GAY JOHNSON UZZELL, individually, Defendants. _____________________________________/ COMPLAINT

CASE NO.

Plaintiffs, KAREN S. PEDDIE, KEVIN JACK PEDDIE, KYLER PEDDIE, MANDIE FOWLER, JASON FOWLER, DANA S. BURNS, STEPANIE HOFHEINZ and KAMILLE PEDDIE MANN sue Defendants, LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD and GLORIA GAY JOHNSON UZZELL, individually, and allege: JURISDICTION 1. This is an action involving the violation of Plaintiffs’ federal civil rights.

This action also contains state claims pursuant to this Court’s concurrent and pendant jurisdiction. The aggregate amount of damages claimed by Plaintiffs against Defendants is in excess of Seventy Five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00), the jurisdictional amount required for venue in this Court.

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2.

Jurisdiction of this Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 in that

this is a civil action arising under the Constitution of the United States. 3. Jurisdiction of the Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1343(a)(3) in

that this action seeks to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured to the Plaintiffs by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. PARTIES 4. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, KAREN S. PEDDIE, has been a

resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County, Florida. Plaintiff Karen Peddie is thus sui juris. 5. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, JACK KEVIN PEDDIE, has been

a resident of Liberty County, Florida. The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Jack Kevin Peddie is thus sui juris. 6. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, KYLER PEDDIE, has been a

resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Kyler Peddie is thus sui juris. 7. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, KAMILLE PEDDIE MANN, has

been a resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Kamille Peddie Mann is thus sui juris.

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8.

At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, MANDIE FOWLER, has been a

resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Mandie Fowler is thus sui juris. 9. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, JASON FOWLER, has been a

resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Jason Fowler is thus sui juris. 10. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, DANA S. BURNS, has been a

resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Dana Burns is thus sui juris. 11. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, STEPHANIE HOFHEINZ, has

been a resident of Liberty County, Florida, and was employed with the Defendant Liberty County School Board (hereinafter “LCSB”). The incidents alleged herein occurred in Liberty County. Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz is thus sui juris. 12. Defendant, LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD (“LCSB”), was, at

all times pertinent to this action, Plaintiffs’ employer. This Defendant is located within the jurisdictional boundaries of this Court and was conducting business therein. This Defendant’s offices are located in Liberty County, Florida. 13. At all times pertinent hereto, Plaintiff, GLORIA GAY JOHNSON

UZZELL (“Uzzell”), was the Superintendent of Schools for LCSB. She is sued in her

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individual capacity as all actions taken by her occurred in Liberty County, Florida. She is thus sui juris. GENERAL FACTS 14. In May 2012 Defendant Gloria Gay Johnson Uzzell began her campaign

to become the Superintendent of Liberty County Schools. The manner in which she ran her campaign was a foreshadowing of the manner in which she would perform in the office of the Superintendent. 15. During her campaign, Defendant Uzzell launched vicious personal attacks

on Plaintiffs as discussed more fully below largely because they supported her opponent in the Superintendent’s race. 16. On July 6, 2012, Uzell uploaded a post on her Facebook page encouraging

her followers to make public records requests for one or more of the Plaintiffs’ emails. She said that school board emails contained, in part, lies, evidence of improper bids, conflict of interest, failure to report teacher misconduct and evidence of employees engaging in illegal activities. 17. In or around October 2012, Uzzell took office as the Superintendent of

Schools in Liberty County, Florida. Once in office, Uzzell engaged in political retaliation against Plaintiffs as a result of them not supporting her during the election and in attempt to cover up her own misconduct. Immediately after taking office, Uzzell initiated

measures to exact her revenge as discussed more fully below. 18. On July 17, 2013, Defendant Uzzell was arrested on charges of grand

theft, official misconduct and failure to disclose information in a public records request.

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An investigation revealed that Uzzell opened a Visa credit card account in the name of Liberty County School Board without its approval or knowledge and made numerous personal purchases on the Visa card including clothing, lodging, lingerie, gas, beauty supplies, shoes, meals and alcohol. Governor Rick Scott suspended her from her public office by Executive Order Number 13-195. The damage to Plaintiff’s reputation and professional careers, however, had already been done. FACTS – KAREN PEDDIE 19. Plaintiff, Karen Peddie, began her employment with the Defendant LCSB

in or around January 1995 as a teacher. In or around 2005, she was promoted to the position of Director of Administration. Her main job duties as Director of Administration were to manage personnel and oversee various departments within the Defendant LCSB. 20. Defendant Uzzell made numerous public false allegations regarding

Plaintiff Karen Peddie and other district level staff and their alleged indiscretions. The administration was fiscally conservative and built a strong financial base. Instead of applauding the administration for doing a good job, Uzell implied that the administration hoarded funds that should have gone to teachers and staff. 21. Part of Plaintiff Karen Peddie’s duties entailed overseeing the Food

Services Department. Uzzell accused Plaintiff Karen Peddie publically of using District labor to cater her daughter’s wedding which was false. Uzzell also accused Plaintiff Karen Peddie of not sending teachers to an important training which was also untrue. 22. On May 31, 2013, Uzzell posted a status update and referred to Plaintiff,

along with the other Plaintiffs involved in this claim as “freebirds” in reference to a

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picture that had been taken of Plaintiffs at a social gathering the night before. Uzzell went on to use the Plaintiff’s initials and accuse them of putting nails in her driveway, sending anonymous threatening letters and accused Plaintiff Jack Kevin Peddie of using his work email to stalk her and other School Board students and staff. 23. Uzzell sought revenge for a political flyer that Plaintiffs Karen Peddie and

Kevin Peddie contributed funds to distribute and for her support of Uzzell’s opponent. Karen Peddie was constructively discharged as no reasonable person would have remained employed in that work environment. FACTS – JACK “KEVIN” PEDDIE 24. Plaintiff Jack “Kevin” Peddie, wife of Karen Peddie and father of Kyler

Peddie, was not an employee of Defendant LCSB but he was a supporter of the former Superintendent, Dr. Sue Summers. 25. Uzell went on Facebook and claimed that Plaintiff Kevin Peddie stalked

her at a high school baseball game. Plaintiff Kevin Peddie was at the game but he never spoke to Uzzell nor did he approach her. He didn’t make one move in Uzzell’s direction. Plaintiff Kevin Peddie watched the game and conversed with friends. 26. Uzzell accused Plaintiff of using his Tallahassee Community College

(“TCC”) email account to stalk her and students/staff of Liberty County. Nothing was further from the truth but such an accusation coming from the Superintendent of a School District was humiliating and embarrassing to Plaintiff. Uzzell knew that.

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FACTS – KYLER PEDDIE 27. Plaintiff, Kyler Peddie, son of Karen and Jack Peddie, began his

employment with Defendant LCSB in or around November 2010 as a Teacher. 28. On Friday January 11, 2013, Derringer Edwards, an aide at Liberty

County High School came into Plaintiff’s classroom and said that he was needed in Principal Aaron Day’s office. Plaintiff Kyler Peddie met with Day and Assistant

Principal Craig Shuler and was told to report to WR Tolar School on Monday January 14, 2013, as he was being transferred. Plaintiff Kyler Peddie asked what would happen to his engineering class and he was told that the students would be absorbed into other classes. He also asked what he would be teaching at Tolar. Day and Shuler told Plaintiff they didn’t know. 29. Plaintiff Kyler Peddie reported to Tolar and met with Principal Link

Barber to ask what he would be teaching. Barber said that he was uncertain at that time. Plaintiff asked Barber why he was being transferred and Barber told him that he really didn’t know. 30. The collective bargaining agreement, to which Plaintiff Kyler Peddie is a

covered party, requires that teachers be given prior notice before being transferred. Plaintiff filed a grievance, along with his aunt, Plaintiff Kamille Peddie Mann, who was also inexplicably transferred. 31. Realizing that his position with the Defendant was in serious jeopardy,

Plaintiff sought and obtained employment elsewhere and he was constructively terminated from the Defendant School Board.

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FACTS – KAMILLE PEDDIE MANN

32.

Plaintiff Kamille Peddie Mann began her employment with Defendant

LCSB in the 2006-2007 school year as a teacher. 33. On Friday January 11, 2013, Plaintiff Kamille Mann was interrupted in

the middle of one of her classes by Derringer Edwards, who told her she was needed in the office. Plaintiff met with Principal Aaron Day and Assistant Principal Craig Shuler. At that meeting, Plaintiff was told that on Monday January 14, 2013, she would begin working at WR Tolar Middle School as a middle school science teacher. Plaintiff Mann asked why she was being transferred and Day said that he could only assume that she was needed there. Plaintiff Mann’s classes were disrupted the rest of the day as she cleared her classroom. 34. Plaintiff later met with Tolar Principal, Link Barber. He told Plaintiff that

he didn’t know why she was transferred. As discussed above, her nephew, Plaintiff Kyler Peddie, was also inexplicably transferred as well. 35. The collective bargaining agreement under which Plaintiff was covered,

required 7 day written notice of a transfer and then only with School Board approval. Consequently, Plaintiff Mann along with her nephew, Plaintiff Kyler Peddie, filed a grievance. The only thing that came of the grievance was a letter stating that it served as the required written notice. 36. After the grievance was filed, Defendant Uzzell met with Plaintiff Kamille

Mann and stated that she wanted Plaintiff in a leadership position for the Science department. Uzzell stated that she wanted Plaintiff to travel to investigate other school’s

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science curriculum. After this, Uzzell didn’t speak to Plaintiff Mann again. She was never sent to visit other schools or participate in any leadership activities. Plaintiff Mann is certified to teach Biology. She was replaced by a teacher with no experience in Biology and no certification in Biology. Plaintiff’s transfer not only disrupted her

Biology students but it disrupted the middle school students as well. 37. On Sunday July 28, 2013, on a public online forum, Topix.com, a post

was made stating, “Jason Fowler, Sue Summers and Kyle Peddie covered up a 2009 investigation of Kammy Mann and another teacher drinking while supervising students on a senior trip. The emails are public record and have been forwarded to the appropriate people.” This post was false.
FACTS – MANDIE FOWLER

38.

Plaintiff, Mandie Fowler, wife of Plaintiff Jason Fowler, began her

employment with Defendant LCSB in or around December 2000 as a Teacher. 39. As discussed in Paragraph 47 below, Uzzell falsely stated Plaintiff Mandie

Fowler’s husband made well over $75,000 per year and that once the new budget was passed he would be making $100,000. 40. In October 2012, Uzzell emailed Plaintiff Mandie Fowler and told her that

Dr. Larry Hutchinson, the 21st Century Community Learning Center (“CCLC”) External Evaluator, had resigned his position. Dr. Hutchinson had submitted a public records request during the election regarding her work history. Uzzell then told Plaintiff Mandie Fowler that she was not to talk to Dr. Hutchinson anymore, that he had “accosted her” and that he had been removed by the police from her office.

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41.

In January 2013, Plaintiff Mandie Fowler received word that Uzzell

promised Plaintiff’s 21st CCLC Project Manager position to one of her political supporters. In light of this information, Plaintiff resigned from the position to save herself from being fired. She was thus constructively terminated from her position. 42. Also in January 2013, Uzzell had her secretary, Mary Eubanks, call all

School Board members and tell them that there was a major grant report that had been due in July 2012 that Plaintiff did not complete and she needed to hire Josh Summers effective immediately to complete the report. Josh Summers had no experience in this area but he was a political supporter. Concerned about her professional reputation, Plaintiff Mandie Fowler called each School Board member and informed them that there were no incomplete reports. Once the Board members began to question Uzzell about the alleged incomplete reports, she told the Board members that her secretary made the story up or misunderstood her intentions. 43. During the week of May 27, 2013, Plaintiff’s husband, Plaintiff Jason

Fowler submitted several Public Records requests at the School Board office. On May 28, 2013, Plaintiff Mandie Fowler’s principal, Jeff Sewell, informed Plaintiff Mandie Fowler that she was being transferred because she had spoken out against Uzzell. Plaintiff Mandie Fowler was taken out of a position that she was certified in and placed into a position in which she had no experience. The new position was slated for

absorption because only two children were in the classroom. Plaintiff Mandie Fowler filed an informal grievance.

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44.

On May 30, 2013, Plaintiff Mandie Fowler received permission from the

school Dean, Seth Geiger, to move some of her things from her old school to her new school. She then called the school secretary at Tolar, Tammy Pullen, to find out where to put her things. She called the Hosford secretary, Tonia Cobb, and asked her to sign her out. Plaintiff met with her new principal, Craig Shuler, about her new duties. Shuler told Plaintiff that he asked Uzzell if he could place Plaintiff in a middle school position since that is what her experience and certification is in. Uzzell asked Shuler while pointing at the transfer document, “Can you read? She will be teaching ESE.” 45. On the morning of June 1, 2013, Mr. Sewell was instructed by Ms. Uzzell

to reprimand Plaintiff Mandie Fowler because she did not have permission to go to Tolar, had not physically signed herself out and she had been harassing Tammy Pullam. Mr. Sewell clarified that Plaintiff Mandie Fowler had permission from Mr. Geiger to go to Tolar. Plaintiff still received a verbal reprimand for not personally signing herself out. This was the first reprimand Plaintiff Mandie Fowler received in the twelve years she worked for LCSB.
FACTS – JASON FOWLER

46.

Plaintiff Jason Fowler began his employment with the Defendant as the

Technology Teacher on Special Assignment in August 2005. 47. As discussed in Paragraph 39 above, during the election, Uzzell falsely

stated on Facebook that Plaintiff Jason Fowler made well over $70,000 per year and that under the new budget he would be making over $100,000. Plaintiff responded to the

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untrue post after which his wife, Plaintiff Mandie Fowler, received a threatening Facebook message. 48. On or around July 29, 2012, Plaintiff Jason Fowler received a phone call

from Ms. Uzzell’s brother, Jeff Johnson. Mr. Johnson made several overt and veiled threats including that his sister would be firing Plaintiff the first chance she got once she was elected. 49. After the election, around December 26 or 27, 2012, Dana Burns, another

Plaintiff who did not support Uzzell during the election, spoke with Plaintiff Jason Fowler and said that she thought her email account had been compromised. Plaintiff Jason Fowler was in Dothan at the time and could not determine whether her account had been compromised from his mobile browser. The only thing he could determine was that her password had indeed been changed. Thinking this was odd, Plaintiff Jason Fowler reached out to the Superintendent to see if she knew of any changes to Plaintiff Dana Burns account. Uzzell told Plaintiff Jason Fowler that since Plaintiff Dana Burns was going to transfer from the Secretary to the Superintendent of Schools position to a School Board position, she wanted her to have a new email address so she had Jack Glunt, the Network Specialist for the District, change her password. This explanation did not make sense because Plaintiff Jason Fowler was the one in charge of maintaining the email system. 50. Uzzell did not indicate that Plaintiff Burns was in bad standing and should

not access the account if she requested to do so. Upon learning that her password had been changed and a new email account had been created, Plaintiff Burns told Plaintiff

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Jason Fowler that she had some emails she wanted to print. Plaintiff Jason Fowler agreed to give her access to the account to print those emails as this had been allowed in times past. Plaintiff Jason Fowler told Plaintiff Burns to tell him as soon as she printed the email so that he could permanently close that email account. 51. At approximately 10:00 p.m. that same evening before Plaintiff Burns

could call Plaintiff Jason Fowler back, Plaintiff Jason Fowler received an email from Ms. Uzzell indicating that Plaintiff had let Plaintiff Burns into her account against her directive. Uzzell told Plaintiff Jason Fowler that he had one hour to file a written response or a formal investigation would be initiated against him. As explained above, however, no such directive had been issued. 52. Plaintiff Jason Fowler called Plaintiff Burns and asked him what

happened. At that time, Plaintiff Burns informed him that Uzzell had been logging into her account and sending emails out to others under her name. 53. Plaintiff Jason Fowler found Uzzell’s actions highly inappropriate and

said as much in his written response that he was ordered to submit within an hour. This did not sit well with Uzzell at all. Uzzell began to express her concern about email security and asked Plaintiff Jason Fowler if he had access to email accounts, specifically hers. 54. In January 2013, Plaintiff Jason Fowler met with his direct supervisor,

Kathy Nobles and Jack Glunt. At this meeting, Plaintiff was informed that Glunt would now be in charge of the email system and that he was to share his knowledge of the system with Glunt. Plaintiff Jason Fowler was also asked to begin creating a document

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of all his administrative rights in the systems along with the credentials to them. Within a few weeks, his website webmaster rights were revoked as well. handwriting on the wall. 55. On or around February 13, 2013, Plaintiff Jason Fowler attended a Plaintiff saw the

baseball game in Blountstown where he bumped into Plaintiff Dana Burns. He hugged Plaintiff Burns and conversed with her for a while until they parted ways. The next day, Uzzell informed Plaintiff Jason Fowler that she heard about him speaking to Dana and had concerns. Plaintiff had been warned by Uzzell not to speak to any members of the former administration or those who did not wish Uzzell well. Plaintiff Jason Fowler told Uzzell that he had known many members of the former administration for years and considered them friends. He went on to say that he would continue those friendships but this did not mean he would speak negatively about her. 56. In the months of April and May, 2013, Uzzell made several outlandish

accusations about Plaintiff Jason Fowler. She accused Plaintiff of participating in a political meeting with: Kyle Peddie, Jeff Sewell and Steve Hofheinz to discuss who would run as her opponent in the 2016 election. 57. Plaintiff was accused of being in a vehicle with Steve Hofheinz and

Jeanette McGhee plotting against her. There is supposedly photographic evidence of this conspiratorial meeting. 58. On May 9, 2013, Uzzell called Plaintiff Jason Fowler around 9:00 a.m.

and asked him if he had ever been in the Finance Office after hours. Plaintiff told her that he had not but she kept asking the question. Plaintiff asked Uzzell why she was

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asking him this. She retorted, “I don’t have to give you a reason,” and promptly hung up the phone. 59. After being subjected to constant harassment and false accusations,

Plaintiff Jason Fowler met with Uzzell and Nobles. Throughout the meeting, Uzzell made several groundless accusations against Plaintiff. Uzzell told Plaintiff Jason Fowler that he scared other employees and stated that he had anger issues. Plaintiff Jason Fowler responded that he had worked with many individuals over the span of his career and that he never had a problem until now. Plaintiff turned in a doctor’s note advising that he needed time off due to stress and left the meeting. 60. On May 17, 2013, after hearing several rumors that he was fired, Plaintiff

decided to turn in his resignation and he was constructively terminated. 61. On May 29, 2013, after Plaintiff had already resigned, Plaintiff Jason

Fowler received a text message at 7:11 a.m. with a capture of a list of people who had “liked” one of his recent Facebook posts. Plaintiff Jason Fowler did not recognize the number so he called and said, “This is Jason Fowler. I was sent a Facebook capture from this number.” The voice on the other end said, “This is Gloria Uzzell and I did not text you.” Plaintif said, “Yes, you did,” and he hung up. 62. On May 31, 2013, Plaintiff received two private Facebook messages at

1:13 and 1:59 from Uzzell. The first message informed Plaintiff that he would need to appear before the Department of Education regarding a corrective action plan that he neglected to inform her about. She stated he was not to call her cell phone or come on

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School Board property again. The second message echoed the same directives but also threatened legal, possible criminal action against him. 63. Uzzell believed that Plaintiff Jason Fowler had stumbled onto her credit

card fraud and was attempting to discredit Plaintiff before he had an opportunity to expose her. On June 12, 2012, Uzzell made a statement in the Calhoun-Liberty Journal that Plaintiff Jason Fowler harassed her. 64. On June 29, 2013, Uzzell posted on Facebook that Plaintiff Jason Fowler

had falsified his time records over the course of his employment which resulted in a high leave payout when he resigned. 65. On July 6, 2012, Uzzell posted on Facebook that Plaintiff Jason Fowler

was harassing and stalking her. She claimed that she had text messages and calls to her new cell phone number that Plaintiff should not have had to prove that Plaintiff was stalking her when, in fact, she was the one who was harassing and stalking Plaintiff’s every move. Plaintiff Jason Fowler had Uzzell’s number only because she texted him. FACTS – DANA BURNS 66. Plaintiff Dana S. Burns began working for

to continue to harass Plaintiff. Defendant LCSB as School Secretary at Liberty County High School in January 2006. She became District Secretary for LCSB in February 2008. In 2010, she became the Executive Secretary for the Superintendent of Schools. In November 2012, when Uzzell took office, she briefly served as Uzzell’s secretary as well.

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67.

Upon Uzzell taking office, Plaintiff Dana Burns’s days were long and

hard. Plaintiff was verbally accosted and cursed out on two separate occasions. On December 14, 2012, Plaintiff Burns requested to be transferred to WR Tolar School as the School Secretary. On December 20, 2012, she was actually placed into the position. 68. On December 21, 2012, Plaintiff Burns noticed that her phone was

displaying an error message when she tried to log into her LCSB email account. She was not extremely concerned initially because she assumed that the network was down. However, after two or three days, she was still getting an error message and she became concerned that her account may have been hacked. 69. On Wednesday December 26, 2012, as discussed in Paragraphs 49 –53

above, Plaintiff received a call from Plaintiff Jason Fowler asking what she would like her new email to be. Plaintiff Burns explained to Plaintiff Jason Fowler that if possible, she would like to access her old email account to retrieve some emails. Later that afternoon, Plaintiff Jason Fowler gave Plaintiff Burns a new password and told her to call him when she was done so he could shut the account down. 70. When Plaintiff Dana Burns logged into her account she realized that there

were emails going out from her account making false accusations about her not doing the job she was expected to do. Plaintiff Dana Burns called Mary Eubanks, Uzzell’s

secretary and asked her if she knew anything about the situation. Eubanks just kept saying, “I’m so sorry. I hate this. I’m sorry.” 71. It became clear to Plaintiff Dana Burns that Uzzell was accusing Plaintiff

of things that she had not done. On Thursday January 3, 2013, Plaintiff Dana Burns

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returned to work and went to the District Office to retrieve her personal belongings from the office. She requested and was granted an opportunity to speak with Uzzell. Plaintiff Dana Burns asked Uzzell if she had done something to warrant her email being seized and the accusations of her not doing her job. Uzzell replied, “I don’t know what’s going on in your personal life but if you could not perform the job required of you then you should have just told me.” Plaintiff Dana Burns asked Uzzell what she meant. Uzzell said that she had not been given phone messages. When Plaintiff Dana Burns asked Uzzell to give her an example of who had called and she had not gotten the message, Uzzell said Josh Summers, one of her staunch supporters had called and she didn’t get a message. Plaintiff Dana Burns explained to Uzzell that Josh called three times and each time chose not to leave a message stating that he knew Uzzell was busy and that he would just get up with her later. 72. Uzzell then said, “Okay, have you been to a party saying things like ‘that

is your Superintendent?’ ” Plaintiff Dana Burns said she had not been to any parties. Uzzell asked, “A social gathering?” Plaintiff again said no but she remembered making a comment like that to Andy Bailey. Bailey had come into the office on a Monday morning and asked where Uzzell was because he was “fixing to smoke her ass.” Plaintiff Dana Burns said to Bailey, “Come on, Andy! That is your Superintendent. Take it easy on her.” Plaintiff Dana Burns thought Bailey would understand that she was only joking with him because he knew that she supported the former Superintendent and he supported the current one, Uzzell.

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73.

At some point in the conversation, Uzzell told Plaintiff Dana Burns that

she knew Plaintiff had been speaking with Plaintiff Karen Peddie and Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz. Plaintiff said that she had spoken with Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz briefly but not about School Board business and she had not seen or spoken with Plaintiff Karen Peddie in months. Uzzell told Plaintiff Dana Burns that she was not to speak with either of them. 74. On January 10, 2013, Uzzell accused Plaintiff Dana Burns of falsifying

payroll documents for Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz. Of course, this accusation was completely untrue. Due to the constant harassment and false accusation lodged against Plaintiff Dana Burns by Uzzell, Plaintiff Dana Burns was constructively terminated on January 22, 2013. 75. On April 4, 2013, Plaintiff Dana Burns received a phone call from Grant

Grantham, Liberty County High School Athletic Director regarding her son Keith who was in the tenth grade and played baseball. Keith had been involved in a fight with a young man who had been harassing him for weeks. He was given three days of Out of School Suspension and was kicked off the baseball team. Though the other student had been picking on Keith for weeks, no disciplinary action was taken against him. From that point on, a vendetta was instigated against Plaintiff’s tenth grade son FACTS – STEPHANIE HOFHEINZ 76. Plaintiff, Stephanie Hofheinz, began her employment with Defendant

LCSB in or around January 2003 as the Director of Finance.

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77.

Defendant Uzzell made Plaintiff’s professional life very difficult as she

refused to follow procedures with regard to obtaining prior approval for purchases which were in place for budgetary control. Uzzell did not adhere to accounts payable

deadlines, instructed finance staff to issue manual travel checks for employees even though published deadlines had not been adhered to. 78. As a result of Uzzell’s behavior, Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz became

physically ill from the stress. She visited her primary physician in November 2012 and was advised to take time off from work. While Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz was on leave, Uzzell approached her at a high school regional playoff game and told Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz that she didn’t look sick to her. She told Plaintiff Stephanie

Hofheinz in front of several others that Plaintiff was wasting tax payer money. 79. remarks. Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz was also the subject of Uzzell’s Facebook Beginning in May 2012, Uzzell accused Plaintiff as well as the former This

administration of misappropriating approximately $800,000 of district funds. allegation was false. 80.

Uzzell also falsely accused Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz of accepting cash

donations from Peter Brown Construction during the construction of Hosford School. Uzzell intimated that Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz pocketed a portion of the donations. There was only one donation made from the construction company and the proceeds were used to purchase food, drinks and decorations for the ground breaking ceremony held in July 2008. The remaining cash was used for refreshments for various training and

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meetings with multiple district participants. Receipts were maintained for all expenses and the amount left over was placed in the vault for safe keeping. 81. Uzzell conducted meetings regarding large District expenditures without

Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz’s knowledge. She wasn’t invited to attend or give input. 82. Uzzell also falsely accused Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz of having

excessive absences but Plaintiff had over 500 hours of sick and annual leave. 83. Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz was constructively terminated in December

2012 due to the hostile work environment created by Defendant Uzzell. Uzzell, however, continued to retaliate against Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz. Upon learning that Plaintiff was employed with the Department of Education, Uzzell sent an email to Plaintiff’s superiors requesting that she have no contact with Liberty County for any reason even though part of her new job responsibilities is routing and audit findings and reviewing budgets and required district reports for all 67 school districts in Florida. This implied that Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz had committed wrongdoing during her employment with the Liberty County School Board. 84. In March 2013, Plaintiff Stephanie Hofheinz applied for a job with the

Leon County School Board and two very good interviews. Upon information and belief, Defendant Uzzell told Superintendent Jackie Pons that Liberty County had a “forensic audit” going on. This false statement cost Plaintiff the job with Leon County. COUNT I FIRST AMENDMENT RETALIATION AGAINST LCSB 85. Paragraphs 1-84 are incorporated herein by reference. This Count is pled

in the alternative.

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86.

Defendants LCSB operated to violate Plaintiffs’ rights under the First

Amendment, brought through 42 U.S.C. §1983. These violations were of the type and character as to which any reasonable person would be aware. Plaintiffs’ right to freedom of political expression, association, participation and belief were violated. Public

employees like Plaintiffs have the right to engage in First Amendment activities without the fear of reprisal. 87. Defendants LCSB retaliated against Plaintiffs for their First Amendment

activity as allege herein by taking adverse actions against them including but not limited to their constructive terminations, removals from positions, defamation and horrific allegations of wrongdoing. 88. Defendants have deprived Plaintiffs of their right to freedom of

association/speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. 89. Defendants are persons under the laws applicable to this action.

Defendants are liable, both jointly and severally with each other for their conduct, individually and in concert, to violate the civil rights of Plaintiffs under the First Amendments to the United States Constitution. 90. Defendant Uzzell, in her official capacity, and the JCSB, misused their

power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because they were clothed with the authority of state law. The violation of Plaintiffs’ rights, as described above, occurred under color of state law and is actionable under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

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91.

The foregoing actions of these Defendants were willful, wanton and in

reckless disregard of Plaintiffs’ rights. 92. Defendant Uzzell, in her official capacity personally participated in the

decicison to violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to associate, engage themselves in the political office and free speech. She is thus liable in her supervisory capacity and/or as the final decision-maker in the actions taken against Plaintiffs that are complained of herein. 93. Defendant LCSB, also failed to implement adequate hiring, training,

staffing and supervisory procedures, a direct result of which Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were violated. 94. Defendant LCSB is responsible for hiring, training, and supervising other

employees and, when necessary, for investigating alleged wrongdoing by persons like Uzzell. At all times referred to herein, this Defendant acted under color of state law. 95. Defendant LCSB, after notice of the constitutional violations alleged

herein, officially sanctioned Uzzell’s actions which established a policy, by a final policy-maker, that directly or indirectly resulted in the violation of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. Finally, Defendant LCSB ratified the actions of the Superintendent who retaliated against Plaintiffs for the exercise of their First Amendment rights. 96. As a direct and proximate result of the Defendant’s actions set forth

herein, Plaintiffs have been injured and have suffered emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, past and future pecuniary losses, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other non-pecuniary losses, along with other tangible and

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intangible damages. These damages have occurred in the past, and are permanent and continuing. 97. Plaintiffs are entitled to reinstatement and other remuneration attendant

therewith including without limitation attorney’s fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. §1988. COUNT II FIRST AMENDMENT RETALIATION AGAINST UZZELL 98. Paragraphs 1-84 are incorporated herein by reference. This Count is pled

in the alternative. 99. Defendant Uzzell, in her individual capacity, operated to violate Plaintiffs’

rights under the First Amendment, brought through 42 U.S.C. §1983. These violations were of the type and character as to which any reasonable person would be aware. Plaintiffs’ right to freedom of political expression, association, participation and belief were violated. Public employees like Plaintiffs have the right to engage in First

Amendment activities without the fear of reprisal. 100. Plaintiffs, as set forth in part above, engaged in constitutionally protected

activity by engaging in political activity by supporting the candidate of their choice and publicly express their views. Plaintiffs conducted their activity and right to associate politically in the general public outside of their workplace. 101. After engaging in protected activity, as related in part above, Plaintiffs

were the victims of retaliatory actions set forth in part above. Defendant Brumfield infringed on Plaintiffs’ constitutionally protected interests under the First Amendment by harassing them, demoting them and firing them in retaliation for their protected activity. Defendant’s actions in harassing Plaintiffs of their duties is the type of retaliatory

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conduct that would deter persons of ordinary sensibilities from exercising their First Amendment rights. Plaintiffs’ protected activity was a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse actions taken. 102. The conduct of Defendant Uzzell was in callous and willful disregard of

Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights thereby authorizing an award of punitive damages against her in her individual capacity. 103. Defendant Uzzell is a person under the laws applicable to this action.

Defendants are liable, both jointly and severally with each other for their conduct, individually and in concert, to violate the civil rights of Plaintiffs under the First Amendments to the United States Constitution. 104. Defendant Uzzell, in her individual capacity, personally participated in

adverse actions against Plaintiffs in violation of their First Amendment rights to associate and engage in the political process and free speech. 105. Defendant Uzzell was the main participant in and/or made the decision to

take action against Plaintiffs after they engaged in protected First Amendment activity. At all times pertinent hereto, Uzzell was acting under color of state law when she made the decision to and/or participated in the adverse employment actions against Plaintiffs. Defendant’s actions against Plaintiffs is the type of retaliatory conduct that would deter persons of ordinary sensibilities from exercising their First Amendment rights. This Defendant acted with malice against Plaintiffs and/or in reckless disregard of their clearly established rights under the First Amendment.

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106.

As a direct and proximate cause of the actions of Defendants, Plaintiffs

suffered adverse employment actions in that they were constructively terminated. They suffered lost wages, benefits and other tangible damages. They have also sustained emotional pain and suffering damages, loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life and other intangible damages. These losses have occurred in the past, at present and are certain to occur into the future. Plaintiffs are entitled to punitive damages against Uzzell and to attorney’s fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. §1988. COUNT III DEFAMATION AGAINST UZELL 107. 108. Paragraphs 1-84 are re-alleged and are incorporated herein by reference. This is an action against Defendant Uzzdell for defamation. This Count is

pled in the alternative. For the purposes of this count alone Defendant Uzzell acted outside of the course and scope of her employment with Defendant LCSB. 109. Defendant published, caused to be published, or allowed to be published

false statements about the Plaintiff to third parties as set forth in part above. 110. Defendant in making these statements acted with negligence and/or malice

and intent in harming Plaintiffs’ reputation in the community, injuring them in their trade or profession and deterring others from associating with them and are actionable on their face. Defendant was negligent in publishing the false statements, and/or published the statements with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard despite awareness of their probable falsity. 111. As a result of the falsity of the statements made by Defendant set forth

above and the publication thereof, Plaintiffs have suffered damages which include,

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without limitation, special and general damages. Defendant engaged in slander per se which is actionable on its face and general damages are presumed. Alternatively,

Defendant engaged in slander per quod and Plaintiffs are entitled to damages as a consequence thereof. The communications made by Defendant imputed to the Plaintiffs’ conduct, characteristics, and a condition incompatible with the exercise of their lawful business, trade, profession and office. 112. 113. Defendant did not publish these false statements in good faith. These statements which have been made by this Defendant regarding the

Plaintiffs attribute conduct and characteristics to the Plaintiffs which in effect branded them as incompetent and/or dishonest, which is incompatible with their functioning as a member of their community and occupation. Few good, decent or honorable people want to have business relationships with a person bearing the qualities attributed to them by Defendant serving them in a personal or professional capacity. 114. As a result of the defamatory statements, Plaintiffs have suffered extreme

humiliation, embarrassment, and mental anguish, pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of consortium, lost capacity for enjoyment of life, loss of business and profits, loss of reputation, good standing in the community and other tangible and intangible damages. These damages have occurred in the past, present and are reasonably expected to continue into the future. Plaintiffs demand punitive damages and injunctive relief. COUNT IV DEFAMATION AGAINST LCSB 115. Paragraphs 1-84 are re-alleged and are incorporated herein by reference.

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116.

This is an action against Defendant Uzzell for defamation. This Count is

pled in the alternative. For the purposes of this count alone Defendant Uzzell acted inside the course and scope of her employment with Defendant LCSB. 117. Defendant published, caused to be published, or allowed to be published

false statements about the Plaintiffs to third parties as set forth in part above. 118. Defendant in making these statements acted with negligence and/or malice

and intent in harming Plaintiffs’ reputation in the community, injuring them in their trade or profession and deterring others from associating with them and are actionable on their face. Defendant was negligent in publishing the false statements, and/or published the statements with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard despite awareness of their probable falsity. 119. As a result of the falsity of the statements made by Defendant set forth

above and the publication thereof, Plaintiffs have suffered damages which include, without limitation, special and general damages. Defendant engaged in slander per se which is actionable on its face and general damages are presumed. Alternatively,

Defendant engaged in slander per quod and Plaintiffs are entitled to damages as a consequence thereof. The communications made by Defendant imputed to the Plaintiffs’ conduct, characteristics, and a condition incompatible with the exercise of their lawful business, trade, profession and office. 120. Defendant did not publish these false statements in good faith.

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121.

These statements which have been made by this Defendant regarding the

Plaintiffs attribute conduct and characteristics to the Plaintiffs which in effect brands them as incompetent and/or dishonest, which is incompatible with their functioning as a member of their community and occupation. Few good, decent or honorable people want to have business relationships with a person bearing the qualities attributed to them by Defendant serving them in a personal or professional capacity. 122. As a result of the defamatory statements, Plaintiffs have suffered extreme

humiliation, embarrassment, and mental anguish, pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of consortium, lost capacity for enjoyment of life, loss of business and profits, loss of reputation, good standing in the community and other tangible and intangible damages. These damages have occurred in the past, present and are reasonably expected to continue into the future. PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for the following relief: (a) (b) that process issue and this Court take jurisdiction over this case; that this Court grant equitable relief against Defendants under the applicable counts set forth above, mandating Defendants’ obedience to the laws enumerated herein and providing other equitable relief to Plaintiffs including temporary and permanent reinstatement to their former positions within Defendants;

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(c)

enter judgment against Defendants and for Plaintiffs awarding damages to Plaintiffs from these Defendants for Defendants’ violations of law enumerated herein and punitive damages against Brumfield;

(d)

enter judgment against Defendants and for Plaintiffs permanently enjoining Defendants from future violations of the laws enumerated herein;

(e)

enter judgment against Defendants and for Plaintiffs awarding Plaintiffs attorney's fees and costs; and

(f)

grant such other and further relief as being just and proper under the circumstances. DEMAND FOR TRIAL BY JURY

Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury on all issues herein which are so triable. Dated this 2nd day of December, 2013. Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Marie A. Mattox Marie A. Mattox [FBN 0739685] MARIE A. MATTOX, P.A. 310 East Bradford Road Tallahassee, FL 32303 (850) 383-4800 (telephone) (850) 383-4801 (facsimile) ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

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