JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) – The Missouri Supreme Court on May 16 lowered the amount awarded by a lower court in a wrongful discharge claim of a former employee of the Kansas City School District.
The employee, Cary Newsome, had been awarded $500,000 for a 2011 case where he claimed he was fired for not following a superintendent’s instruction to adjust purchase orders – an action that Newsome claimed was illegal.
The court reduced the amount awarded to Newsome to $403,139 and denied a request for a retrial in the case.
Newsome’s complaint arose after he forwarded his concerns of the legality of purchase orders for a contractor and for the purchase of Ford Explorers to his supervisor – who, according to court documents, initially agreed that the changes might violate state law and the district’s own procurement rules, but later changed her mind and instructed Newsome to proceed with the orders.
“When Newsome objected, (the supervisor) told him that she ‘didn’t want to hear anything else about it’ and that he ‘needed to take care of it,’” the complaint said.
Newsome did follow the instructions to prepare the purchase order for the vehicles, but included a memorandum in the district’s electronic accounting system “documenting his concerns that the purchase was for different vehicles and difference prices than approved by the school board.” Newsome also attached his complaint to the hard copy of the purchase order.
Three days later, Newsome was asked to resign or risk being fired. To claim $20,000 in severance, district officials asked him to sign a form waiving future claims. Newsome at first signed the document, but later rescinded his signature within a time frame allowed in the waiver, and was subsequently fired.
In the jury trial, Newsome was awarded $500,000 in damages, a judgment that the district disputed and later filed an appeal over.
Outside of the reduced award to Newsome, the court affirmed the lower court ruling “in all other respects.”