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APS settles Winston Brooks lawsuit for $75K

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Former Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks in 2013 after the school board voted not to extend his contract. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Albuquerque Public Schools will pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former Superintendent Winston Brooks that claims his buyout agreement was breached when his immediate successor disparaged him in a Journal interview.

The deal – signed Oct. 30 – includes $61,500 for damages, along with $13,500 to cover Brooks’ attorneys fees, according to documents APS released to the Journal in response to an open records request. APS also spent $22,587 for its legal fees in the case.

Brooks filed the lawsuit in 2nd Judicial District Court in February 2015, seeking attorneys fees and $125,000 – $25,000 for each of the five remarks made by then-interim Superintendent Brad Winter during a Journal interview.

The September 2014 Journal story quoted Winter as saying, “I just couldn’t work with him (Brooks) anymore,” because he felt Brooks was not willing to collaborate with the business community, New Mexico Public Education Department and neighborhood groups.

Winter went on to say that “Winston just had a profound effect on those folks. Nobody (at PED) wanted to work with him.”

A month before Winter’s interview, Brooks had stepped down as APS superintendent with a $350,000 buyout and a settlement agreement barring the board and district administration from disparaging “the conduct, character, performance or ethics” of Brooks or his wife, Ann.

Winter’s comments violated that agreement, the lawsuit argued.

In early 2016, the case bogged down as the court debated Brooks’ mental capacity.

APS had sought a protection order to keep Winter from being deposed, contending that Brooks’ ability to proceed with the lawsuit appeared to be impaired or limited. The APS motion cited a docket sheet from a Kansas court case that appeared to show Brooks’ wife had been appointed guardian for her husband.

The guardianship action, which occurred just months after Brooks’ departure from APS, was described as “uncontested” and included a physician evaluation, the Kansas records show.

The APS motion said the Kansas court documents “indicate impediments” that could affect Brooks’ ability to proceed in the lawsuit and said APS didn’t know who was “pulling the levers” in the case.

An August 2017 plaintiff’s response reveals that Brooks granted his wife power of attorney in 2009, which allowed her to sue on his behalf. It’s not clear why Brooks wanted his wife to have power of attorney.

Winston Brooks and Ann Brooks – listed as his guardian – both signed the October release and settlement agreement.

An APS spokeswoman declined to comment. Brooks’ attorney, Maureen Sanders, could not be immediately reached Friday afternoon.

Brooks led APS from 2008 to 2014, a tumultuous tenure that included conduct-related lawsuits, domestic disputes, bizarre phone calls, and in a Twitter exchange with a television reporter in 2013, Brooks compared then-Education Secretary Hanna Skandera to livestock, using the terms “Moo, Moo, Oink, oink!!”

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