If it seems like the dispute between the Eldon School Board and boys’ basketball coach Jimmy Lincoln has dragged on, it’s not necessarily been by choice.
At least, not according to the coach’s attorney.
Mike McDorman, an attorney with offices in Lake Ozark and Versailles, who represents the coach, issued a press release Wednesday, partially out of frustration.
“I am concerned about the fact of it being misrepresented by the school district as to what we’ve attempted to do to resolve this matter,” McDorman said. “I wanted to set this record straight that Mr. Lincoln attempted to resolve this as early as June 18 and we’ve continually asked to meet with the board face-to-face, which I think is the best way to resolve this.”
That hasn’t happened so far.
The school board met in a special closed session Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation involving the coach. McDorman said his request for the coach to meet with the board was denied. He also asked if the coach could meet with the board in a closed session at the upcoming regular meeting on Monday. That request, too, was denied.
“I just got off the phone with Scott Kimble (one of the attorneys representing the school district) and our request was denied again,” McDorman said. “I don’t know why they didn’t decide to get Mr. Lincoln’s side of the story from the beginning. We could have probably prevented a lot of this.”
So, what’s next? Perhaps a lawsuit.
“Our hopes were to get this resolved before the students came back (Thursday),” McDorman said. “That’s why we’ve continued to reach out to them and try to come to a resolution that makes sense for everybody concerned.
“I don’t want to say we’re absolutely going to file suit Monday,” McDorman said. “I still feel the best recourse is to have an amicable meeting between the board and Mr. Lincoln.”
So far, the school district has spent $42,806 in legal fees in the case involving the coach.
“He (Kimble) indicated we’re not going to have the opportunity to meet with them,” McDorman said. “I just don’t understand that. I’ve never seen a situation like this where you have a staff member who was never given an opportunity to give their side of the story.”
That’s why McDorman, in consultation with his client, felt compelled to issue the press release.
“I thought (it was a way) to set the record straight, so the Eldon community understands we’ve tried to resolve this as much as a month ago,” McDorman said.
The day of the public termination hearing, held July 31, McDorman said he reached out to the board’s legal counsel to see if a resolution could be reached.
Page 2 of 3 - “Their response was the only thing they would consider was resignation,” McDorman said.
Superintendent Matt Davis had recommended to the board it fire the coach for alleged misconduct, including the accusation he elbowed an opposing player at the end of a summer shootout game at Osage and for using profanity.
When Lincoln refused to resign, Davis recommended to the board it fire the coach.
At the public hearing, Lincoln denied elbowing the player, which witnesses for the coach corroborated, and denied using profanity on one of the incidences the school board claimed he did during the Osage shootout. He admitted to using profanity on two other occasions at the shootout.
The board met in closed session immediately after the hearing and then went into closed session until the early morning hours of Aug. 1. At that time, the board voted unanimously to suspend the coach for two games, issue an official letter of reprimand and require the coach sign and abide by a code of conduct, though there was no notice of the board’s decision provided to the coach or his attorney.
Two days later, on Aug. 3, the board met again in an emergency closed session without giving the required 24-hour notice. Board President Chris Hart said the board had good cause to not adhere to the 24-hour notice because a board member had plans to be out of town and unavailable.
At the second closed session, motions were made to reconsider and rescind the previous motion with the two-game suspension. Board member Jill Kliethermes was the lone dissenting vote. The vote to suspend Lincoln for five games passed unanimously. Lincoln’s attorney notified him of the board’s decision on Aug. 3.
McDorman said he has requested a copy of the letter of reprimand and the code of conduct, but neither has been provided.
“It’s been two weeks since we’ve had the (board’s decision) and I thought the public was entitled to know what has transpired in these two weeks,” McDorman said. “I think it’s important to understand we have continued to try and reach out to this board and try and understand why there were two votes and two decisions. … We wanted to meet with the board to find out what caused this change. You have a board meeting two and a half days later with no indication given in the minutes of what caused the board to change from a two-game suspension to give a five-game suspension.”
McDorman said the coach would not consider any settlement offer without first seeing a copy of the letter of reprimand and code of conduct.
“He (attorney Kimble) is insistent that we submit an offer and refuses to allow a meeting with the board,” McDorman said. “I have advised him that we will not agree to that. I have again asked for the letter of reprimand and the code of conduct. I will not agree to make any offer on behalf of Mr. Lincoln until we can either meet with the board or see what misconduct they are punishing him for and what he will be expected to do under the new code of conduct.”
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