Wednesday, February 04, 2015

R-8 District saves Huff embarrassment, settlement reached in sexual harassment lawsuit

Less than two weeks before a trial that would have likely embarrassed Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and his buildings program director Mike Johnson, the district has decided to pay off former custodial supervisor George Morris.

In a letter to Judge David Dally, who would have been hearing the case, the district's lawyer, Karl Blanchard, said there would be no need for the pre-trial hearing, which was scheduled for today, or for the trial.

This case currently set on your trial docket for February 17 has been settled, We are in the process of preparing and executing the settlement documents which we anticipate will be filed shortly.

The timing of the settlement could not be better for C. J. Huff, who was facing the prospect of having embarrassing testimony about him and Johnson at the trial at about the same time as State Auditor Thomas Schweich delivers a report that is expected to be heavily critical of Huff's management of the school district.

The Morris lawsuit is at least the third in the past three years in which the district has had to pay off a plaintiff. In one of the lawsuits, filed by Urban Metropolitan, which included accusations of racism against Johnson, the district paid $276,000.

George Morris alleged wrongful firing, retaliation, harassment, and sexual harassment against Johnson. Though Huff was not listed as a defendant in the action, he is prominently featured in the lawsuit,

The following description of the case comes from the February 27, 2014, Turner Report:

Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff is nothing if not a man of action.

When his custodial supervisor told him that he was being sexually harassed by Building, Grounds, and Transportation Director Mike Johnson, Huff said he was deeply concerned.

"Has he said anything about the principals?" Huff asked.

George Morris was worried. This meeting, which took place September 9, 2008, was not Morris' idea. He felt uncomfortable talking about his immediate supervisor.

After a pause, Morris said, "Yes. "I heard Mike Johnson say that he would like to bend Marilyn Alley (former Stapleton Elementary principal) over his desk" That was one of many times Johnson had talked about Mrs. Alley, he added.

Since he had already talked about the sexual harassment, Morris, feeling there was nothing left to lose told Huff about improper ordering and storage procedures that Mike Johnson had ordered him to do.

As the meeting ended, Huff reassured Morris, "This information will be kept confidential. There won't be any retaliation."

Less than two months later, George Morris was fired..

According to the petition, the meeting came at the request of Huff and former Assistant Superintendent Doug Domer. Morris was asked if there had ever been any problems between him and Johnson.

Morris said he did not feel comfortable talking about Johnson, since Huff and Domer were Johnson's bosses.

"He's going to know this came from me. I am the only one who knows about these things," Morris said. Morris also said that despite his never having had a bad evaluation that he thought what he was going to say would get him fired.

"Has he ever said anything to you that offended you concerning sexual preference?" Huff asked.

Morris said Johnson had made such remarks on more than one occasion. One such occasion was on September 9, 2008, just three days earlier, and was made in front of a witness, Gayle Bigley, according to the lawsuit. "Mike Johnson said something about my beard and Gayle said that he thought I kept it because the girls liked it. Mike Johnson responded with he thought I kept it because the guys liked it. I told him he was sick."

Morris told Huff that in August 2007, "while submitting a vacation request, Mike Johnson made a comment about Plaintiff going to see his son in Hawaii.. Mike Johnson told Plaintiff, 'Yeah, sure. We all know that you are president of the Gay Society; there is no need to lie about it."

Morris told Huff of yet another time when Johnson had made disparaging remarks. Morris was preparing to go trout fishing and prepared a vacation form. According to the lawsuit, Johnson said, "Yeah, right. We know that you're really heading up the gay convention; you aren't fooling anyone. We are all familiar with Brokeback Mountain."

At that point, Morris said, he told Johnson he found the comments to be offensive.

After that, Morris said he was worried about retaliation.

"There won't be any retaliation," Huff said, then asked him about the principals.

The lawsuit indicates that Morris believes Huff told Johnson about the meeting because within a week Johnson "became cold and distant."

On October 24, 2008, Johnson called Morris into his office to do his evaluation- nine months late. It was the first time Morris had ever received a poor evaluation.

Three days later he was fired "and not given a reason for his discharge."


Anonymous said...

However many millions of taxpayer dollars it takes, we must keep Mike Johnson!

Anonymous said...

Running scared. The last thing CJ wants is for the public to find out what he has allowed to be done to the district via his henchmen.

For the kids,
Anon Y. Mous

Anonymous said...

An implied admission of guilt. Too much potentially damaging and devastating information would have come out on the stand, and there's no way Johnson could ever come off as anything but the ass that he is. You just can't cover that up and he hasn't learned the fine art of crying on demand. Maybe he needs some professional development in that area. He's in the right place for it.

For the kids

Anonymous said...

I'd think anyone making that many costly mistakes, not to mention the sorry state of R8's buildings, would be fired. That is, if he had a boss with a pair, even a tiny pair, one would assume that. I wonder what Johnson knows about CJ that he gets to keep his job despite all this? Must be big. Bigger than that tiny pair.

For the kids,

Anonymous said...

where is the school board? I thought they ran the foolish...

Anonymous said...

This would be a call by the insurance company, not Huff or the board. The districts insurance provider will figure out how much the deductible is vs how much they would have to pay and more times than not will settle the case. You'd be surprised at how many cases have been settled out of court by the insurance company in the past several years.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should start our own "Was it Really For the Kids?" window chalk campaign on our car windows!
Who's in?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Turner,

Since you insist on being the only actual reporter in the area, would you mind showing us a membership matrix of the "players?" The columns could read "Joplin Progress Committee, CART, BOE, Globe, R8, Bright Futures, etc." The rows, starting from most to least ubiquitous, could list our "leaders."

This would be a fascinating visual of what "tight knit" means in the context of small town politics.

I know you are extremely busy doing the job that our local media either lacks the ability or willingness to do, but I think this big picture project would go a long way to helpng us really grasp how this group is impacting our lives.

Thank you,
Don Quixote (:

Randy said...

Interesting that you should mention that. It just so happens that the book I am working on, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud offers a detailed account of how the city and the school district got into the mess they are in now. This includes the players from CART, Joplin Progress Committee, Bright Futures USA, etc. There may be some mentions between now and the book's publications on this blog, as well, on some of these things.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad this was settled for George Morris' sake. Huff and Johnson took his livelihood and attempted to destroy the reputation of a good man (sound familiar Randy).

As a taxpayer, I'm plenty fed up with paying for Johnson's bad behavior and Huff's mismanagement. Johnson should be fired before the week is over and send his spying wife with him.

Marilou A. said...

What perverts! So sad men like these are in paid positions with our children!

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget Marilou...paid with our tax dollars!

Anonymous said...


This may be true about the insurance company; however, my experience with any insurance company is that they would rather not pay, given a choice, so this company must be fairly confident that they would lose in the courtroom. There is much evidence against them.

For the kids,

Anonymous said...

What job does Johnson's wife have?

Anonymous said...

Don't worry MJ.

YOU could plow an R8 vehicle through a crowded playground, stumble out drunk, and get a promotion and another raise.

Anonymous said...

Meredith is the secretary at FTC. I'm not sure why anyone would want to drag her into this, quite frankly, I feel very sorry for her being married to a perverted, violent SOB like MJ. Imagine what her life must be like.

Anonymous said...

It seems like all of those that are passionate about seeing the "elite" list of folks that are intermingled in the various leadership capacities might should jump on board to make a difference. What seems to be the trend, however, is those folks just like to sit back and whine about those who are actually volunteering their time to make a difference.

If you aren't willing to do something about it, your voice won't be heard. Sitting back and doing nothing but griping makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

And just exactly who are you....Anonymous?
What do you do except take pot shots at people frustrated wih this nonsense?