Former employee files defamation suit against Richland One - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Former employee files defamation suit against Richland One

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In the wake of an investigation into a Richland School District One program, the former supervisor filed a defamation lawsuit against the school district and Superintendent Percy Mack.

Donna Hammett, who worked as the Office of Advanced Academic Programs coordinator, said in a lawsuit that she was forced into retirement after being placed on paid leave April 29. Hammett has worked with Richland One for more than 35 years.

According to court documents, Hammett said she had no knowledge that her former secretary Peggy Mattie was forging Hammett's signature on her timesheets to receive overtime compensation that she didn't earn. Hammett said that she "fully cooperated with the District in every aspect during their investigation and answered every question truthfully," the lawsuit said.

Mattie was confronted by District employees after officials said she was signing Hammett's name on her timesheets, resulting in at least $35,000 in compensation dating back to 2008, according to a Columbia Police incident report. Mattie was terminated March 20, and Columbia Police are investigating the allegations. Mattie has not been charged.

The plaintiff said Mack told her she didn't have anything to be concerned about in regards to the investigation.

However, the lawsuit said the District's Chief of Teaching and Learning Regina Thompson said that Mack said, "(Hammett) can say whatever she wants and go down with her." Thompson retracted her statement after Hammett said she wasn't involved in any wrongdoing. It was after that Hammett was asked to put together a list of the duties that would've required Mattie to have overtime.

Later, Hammett was placed on paid leave. It was at that time she said she felt "coerced into doing so because she felt she was being scapegoated," the lawsuit stated. Hammett then turned in her retirement notice to Mack.

The lawsuit alleges that "the timing of the plaintiff's notification of being placed on administrative leave was intentionally calculated to create the appearance the plaintiff was responsible or connected to the claims of fraud investigated by the District." It is also assumed that the District made the community and Hammett's co-workers believe the same, the court documents said.

Hammett is requesting a jury trial.

Richland One spokeswoman Karen York previously told WIS that five employees worked in this office, but now, four of those employees are no longer employed with the school district.

Richland One has no comment regarding the lawsuit. WIS requested more information about the employees in this department. This report will be updated as information becomes available.

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