A state court judge in Florida has dismissed the claim of a legendary high school football coach who alleged defamation, breach of contract and emotional distress against the Manatee County School Board and two individual defendants. The circuit judge did, however, grant former Manatee High School head football coach Joe Kinnan an opportunity to amend the complaint.
Kinnan resigned Aug. 29, 2014 after having won five state titles and 290 career games. Two scandals preceded his departure.
In April 2014, a former assistant football coach pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor battery charges after he was accused by several female students and faculty members of groping them. Kinnan claimed in his lawsuit that the school district’s superintendent Rick Mills claimed that he turned a blind eye to the behavior.
Then, later that year, news emerged that the school’s baseball coach did not have a proper coaching certificate and was profiting personally from a “pay-for-play” scheme involving players and his summer camp.
In the wake of the scandals, Mills recommended Kinnan be suspended for 10 days. Kinnan alleged that Mills was acting outside the scope of his authority.
“Mills engaged and recruited or intimidated others to help him in a pattern of conscious and malicious conduct targeting individuals and others that he perceived as political enemies, the actions for which fly far beyond the orbit of authority he was ordained with,” according to the lawsuit.
Specifically, the plaintiff pointed to a former district investigator, alleging that Mills implored the investigator to repeatedly harass Kinnan, threatening him with administrative actions and leaking false stories to the media. This, the plaintiff alleged, caused him emotional distress.
In the school board’s motion to dismiss, it argued that if Kinnan was correct about Mills, then the school board was not liable, citing a Florida statute. The court found enough merit in this argument, as well as arguments by the individual defendants that they were entitled to governmental immunity, to warrant dismissal of the claim, albeit, without prejudice.