BEAUFORT, SC (WSAV) – A squabble among Beaufort County school board members or a conspiracy to slander and attack one of their own?
A jury may end up having to decide after one of the members files a lawsuit.
“Shame, humiliation and emotional distress” is what William Smith says some of his fellow Beaufort County school board members and the school district caused him after a “concerted smear campaign” started against him two years ago.
Now he has filed a lawsuit to fight back.
The lawsuit names not just the Beaufort County School District but school board chairwoman Christina Gwozdz, board member Richard Geier, former interim superintendent Herb Berg and District Chief of Security David Grissom as well.
It also adds 10 “DOES” or unknown defendants in the case.
Smith filed a civil lawsuit looking for damages related to eight different “causes of action” for what he says were “tactics to quash an opposing voice.”
Words like slander, libel, and conspiracy are outlined in the 19-page lawsuit, which Smith says all started when he began questioning decisions by Berg and the school system in 2019. Especially those related to his support of the proposed $290 million school referendum.
He says Gwozdz, Berg and other district employees conspired to “harass and ostracize him” — to get them to submit what he calls “meritless” complaints against him.
And to try and get him “isolated” and “weaken his authority as a board member” and “possibly force him to resign.”
The resulting “smear campaign” included “coaching, instructing or coercing” school system employees to file complaints against him.
There was also a series of questions, complaints and inquiries about a weapon he owned, going so far as to conduct what he calls “an illegal search” to see if he had a concealed weapons permit. It’s a permit Smith says he had.
Smith says their “willful and wanton conduct” led to “intentional infliction of emotional distress, and mental anguish.”
He is asking for an undisclosed amount of punitive and actual damages for violation of personal and civil rights, as well as humiliation and mental distress.
Calls to Smith’s attorney went unanswered. A spokesperson for the Beaufort County School District says she could not comment on pending litigation.