ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks is suing APS, claiming that interim Superintendent Brad Winter breached an agreement that said neither APS nor Brooks would disparage each other when they parted ways.
Brooks is seeking $125,000 plus attorney’s fees for comments Winter made in an Albuquerque Journal article published Sept. 16, 2014, a month after Brooks agreed to resign. At that time, he and APS signed a termination agreement and he was paid $350,000.
Winter was quoted in the Journal story that, unlike Brooks, he would welcome community opinions and would work with community groups.
Winter is a longtime APS employee who served as an assistant superintendent under Brooks until he retired in May 2014. He came out of retirement three months later to serve as interim superintendent.
The Journal story quoted Winter as saying, “I just couldn’t work with him (Brooks) anymore,” because he was fed up with what he described as Brooks’ unwillingness to work with the business community, the state Public Education Department and neighborhood groups.
Journal attempts to reach Brooks for comment for that story were unsuccessful.
Brooks, in the lawsuit filed this week by his attorney Maureen Sanders, took issue with Winter’s statement to the Journal that “Winston just had a profound effect on those folks. Nobody (at PED) wanted to work with him,” as well as Winter’s statement that Brooks had clashed unnecessarily with other governments.
The lawsuit described five statements made by Winter that it claimed violated the buyout agreement and would make APS subject to liquidated damages of $25,000 for each statement.
The APS-Brooks settlement document said “the board and central office administration will not disparage the conduct, character, performance or ethics” of Brooks or his wife.
The agreement also said APS would not file any legal complaints against Brooks or his wife, and Brooks agreed he would not disparage the district or its board.
Winter on Wednesday said that as an APS employee, he cannot comment on pending litigation.
In a related matter, the Journal and KOB-TV filed a lawsuit late last month against the APS board over its refusal to make public several records, including an attorney’s report that led to Brooks’ resignation.
Board President Analee Maestas had hired an attorney to investigate an undisclosed “serious personnel issue” involving Brooks, and the board agreed to keep it in a secret personnel file.
Because no information about how the board decided to buy out Brooks was made public, the Journal and KOB filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request, which APS denied.
The lawsuit was filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque.
The school board bought out Brooks’ remaining contract – two years – last August. His salary at the time was $250,000 plus benefits.