COVINGTON -- Three of 11 defendants originally named in a lawsuit for commenting on the Newton Citizen website about Alcovy High School Principal LaQuanda Carpenter were asked to be dismissed.
On April 27, Stephanie Lindsey, an attorney representing Carpenter, filed a motion to dismiss "John Doe 5 aka GwinnettTransplant" from the suit filed earlier this month. On Thursday, Lindsey filed a motion to dismiss fellow defendants spdracer90 and avidreader, according to documents filed in Newton County Superior Court.
As of press time Friday, Lindsey did not return a call seeking comment as to why the motions were filed.
The motion to dismiss GwinnettTransplant was filed one day after Carpenter received a phone call from Alcovy High teacher, Michelle Finley, who admitted to writing a comment as GwinnettTransplant, according to Newton County School System documents obtained Friday by The Citizen.
In an April 26 email to NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews and Nyree Sanders, director of Human Resources at NCSS, Carpenter wrote that Finley called her earlier in the night.
"Ms. Finley stated that she wanted to apologize for writing a blog under the tagline 'GwinnettTransplant' in the Newton Citizen. Ms. Finely was very apologetic, she stated that she would write a letter to the newspaper and to my attorney apologizing for the comment," Carpenter wrote in the e-mail. "I informed Ms. Finley that this is a legal matter and that I cannot discuss this with her, and that I appreciated her call."
In her e-mail, Carpenter repeated the comment from GwinnettTransplant that included, "This entire school system is a JOKE! AHS is a complete free for all! I know plenty of people who work there and they are tired of the lack of leadership. What has to happen for the BOE to realize Dr. Carpenter is NOT the answer!"
Although GwinnettTransplant was named as a defendant in the original suit, that specific comment was not cited among the comments from other defendants named.
On April 27, the day after the phone call, Sanders wrote an e-mail to Mathews and copied to school board attorney Kent Campbell recommending that Finley be removed from Alcovy High School "at this time," according to documents provided by NCSS.
"She was actually reprimanded earlier this year for an outburst and served a suspension without pay for unprofessional conduct," Sanders wrote in the email.
That day, Mathews informed Finley via a hand-delivered letter that she was being placed on administrative leave with pay pending further investigation due to her "unprofessional conduct directed" at Carpenter. Finley was instructed to discontinue any contact with AHS students and staff in her role as teacher until NCSS determined her status, according to documents provided by NCSS.
On Thursday, Mathews wrote an email to Carpenter and copied it to Campbell informing them that he left a voice message for Finley indicating that she should return to work Friday.
"I also stated that I look forward to a positive working relationship between (Carpenter) and her and that I expect professional conduct always," Mathews wrote in the email.
When asked about any policies prohibiting such behavior and why NCSS responded since the lawsuit was brought forth by Carpenter and not NCSS, Mathews said he could not comment on a particular personnel matter.
"I can say that I expect our employees to engage in highly professional conduct towards each other at all times exemplifying honesty and integrity in the course of professional practice. That's true for teachers, support staff, and administrators," Mathews added. "We have complaint procedures in Board policy that allows one to come forward with matters of concern and I expect our employees to use it when applicable."
When contacted Friday via email by The Citizen, Finley replied that her attorney advised her not to speak on the situation.
The Newton Citizen was subpoenaed for all information and documents sufficient to identify the names, addresses and telephone numbers associated with those named in the lawsuit, as well as documents reproducing the texts of the comments from Jan. 1, 2011, to present and all server logs, IP address logs, account information, account access records and application or registration forms related to those named.
However, David Hudson, the attorney for the Georgia Press Association, filed a motion Tuesday to quash the subpoena, citing that the request for documents is invalid because of the qualified privilege for journalists against disclosing the information.
Additionally, he argues that the comments cited in the lawsuit are writers' opinions or criticisms of Carpenter and privileged under the First Amendment.
The hearing on the motion to quash the subpoena is set for June 14 in Newton County Superior Court.