LA MARQUE — A former school district police chief’s federal lawsuit against the La Marque school district and school board is set to go to trial today.
The lawsuit heads to trial several months after trustees rejected a settlement offer from Russel Washington, who sued the school district in 2012 for wrongful termination.
Washington was fired in 2010 while under indictment on criminal charges that he falsified records to obtain a car title. Those charges were later dropped.
The former school district police chief is seeking $10 million, claiming he was fired without due process because he was “wrongfully indicted” by a grand jury.
Washington’s settlement offers have not been disclosed.
The lawsuit, among other things, contends that the school board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it met in March 2010 to consider an agenda item that called for trustees to consider then-Superintendent Ecomet Burley’s “recommendation to propose the termination of the contract and employment of the LMISD Chief of Police.”
Washington claims he was not given a hearing or an opportunity to defend his termination. He also alleges that former school board trustee Cynthia Bell-Malveaux, who had filed a defamation lawsuit against Washington, was biased against the then-police chief and should have recused herself from the vote.
Before filing the lawsuit, Washington attempted to get his job back and asked for roughly $125,000 in compensation, but that was rejected by trustees. He was given a post-termination hearing and was afforded due process, according to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the school district.
During his tenure as police chief, Washington regularly clashed with Burley, who is expected to testify, but had the support of some former school board members.
Several former school district employees and trustees are expected to testify in the trial, including former trustees Bell-Malveaux and Joseph Cantu, according to a list of potential witnesses filed by the school district.
Since Washington’s termination, the school district has disbanded its police department, hired a new superintendent and seen significant turnover on the board of trustees.
The trial will be held in Galveston’s federal court with U.S. Circuit Judge Gregg Costa presiding.
Jury selection is scheduled for 10 a.m., with opening arguments expected this afternoon.