Ferndale school board sues former superintendent

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — The Ferndale Board of Education is suing its former superintendent for allegedly helping to set up a charter school in Detroit while working and being paid by the district.

The lawsuit for breach of contract was filed in Oakland Circuit Court and seeks damages against Gary W. Meier and Equity Education Management Solutions in Southfield.

“This came as a surprise to me,” said Meier, reached Wednesday at Equity, where he is the founder and CEO of the company that works with schools.

“I haven't been served with the complaint but I have heard some of it,” he said. “We are still assessing matters. From my perspective, the allegations are unfounded and will be proven so in court.”

The lawsuit alleges Meier, who was named Ferndale school district superintendent in August 2000, resigned and retired in May 2014 when Ferndale officials discovered he was helping Equity open a charter school known as Schools for the Future of Detroit in that city, which is authorized through Ferris State University.

The charter school opened in September. Meier contends contrary to any sudden resignation, he had advised others on the board months earlier that he planned to retire before the end of the year.

In several employment contracts with Ferndale schools, Meier agreed to “devote his full time and effort to the job of superintendent of schools” according to the complaint. While the contract did have a provision where Meier could engage in “consultative work” and other outside employment, it also stipulated it required prior notice and approval by the board.

The lawsuit said Meier “along with other Ferndale School District employees” was involved in “forming, managing and operating” an entity known as Equity. The lawsuit alleges Meier “used and/or diverted resources of the district, including his own time and that of other district employees” to Equity. When confronted about that arrangement, Meier immediately resigned “to avoid any further investigation of his involvement” with Equity.

The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial to determine damages, is assigned to Judge Daniel P. O'Brien.