Less than 24 hours after being denied reinstatement as Swansea High School football coach, Greg Wright brought a lawsuit against Lexington 4 School District and other defendants.
Wright’s attorney, Lewis Cromer of Cromer, Babb, Porter and Hicks, filed the lawsuit Friday morning in the 11th Circuit common pleas court. The suit is for defamation and civil conspiracy and seeks $300,000 plus any punitive damages a jury would see fit. Cromer said other charges might be coming in the future.
Cromer and Wright held a news conference Friday afternoon at which Cromer read a 10-minute statement about the lawsuit and Wright’s passion for his Swansea football team and players. Neither Cromer nor Wright took questions from reporters.
“Coach Wright is most disappointed by the board’s decision last evening not to allow him to coach the football team this fall,” Cromer said. “To the district, I would say that you had your opportunity to resolve this case without spending any more money other than what had already been budgeted for the remainder of the coach’s contract year. You did not do so and now the district must pay a heavy price. Whether or not coach Wright is successful in his lawsuit, the failure to resolve this issue has cost the district and, indirectly, the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money in attorney’s fees and costs for its defense. Further, if we succeed, it will cost a large amount of money for the significant damages that could be awarded to coach Wright by a jury.”
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In addition to Lexington 4, other defendants in the lawsuit mentioned are Lexington 4 Superintendent Linda Lavender, Lexington 4 Associate Superintendent Justin Nutter, Swansea Middle School Principal Craig Baker, Lexington County residents Larry and Laura Sebok and Swansea Assistant Principal Gib Lackey.
“The individuals that have been sued for punitive damages, which would have to be borne by each of them personally if awarded and could amount to large amounts of money, not to enrich coach Wright but rather to punish and deter them from the same alleged acts in the future, which might have similar consequences to others,” Cromer said.
Lexington 4 spokesperson Lisa Ingram said the district won’t comment on the lawsuit. Eric Pack has been named interim football coach.
“The District and its attorneys will not provide comment with regard to the pending litigation; however, any filings submitted on behalf of the District and its employees are a matter of public record,” the release said.
Wright is 7-15 in two seasons as Tigers’ head coach. Swansea made the playoffs both years. Before coming to Swansea, he coached at Eau Claire and led the Shamrocks to three wins in 2015. EC was winless the previous three years.
Wright was fired from his job June. 26. He made his appeal to the Lexington 4 board on Thursday, but the board chose to uphold the school’s decision to terminate Wright.
“I appreciate the board hearing me here tonight. I appreciate the support from the community and I will continue to fight for our community and our kids. They always will be my No. 1 priority without a doubt,” Wright said after the meeting.
According to the lawsuit, criticism of Wright became acute after the end of the season and into the beginning of this year regarding his duties as coach and athletic director. The lawsuit claims that criticism came from Nutter and Baker and included claims of excessive expenditures for football uniforms, along with complaints and accusations regarding proper paperwork on student-athletes.
Wright requested secretarial help or outside help from the administration but did not get it. In February, he was told he wouldn’t be the school’s athletic director for the upcoming year. The move didn’t become official until June.
The suit also claims Wright experienced considerable criticism and harassment directly and indirectly through Lackey and Laura Sebok, whose son also played on the football team, for the purpose of removing him as coach.
On June 25, one of the players complained to the coach that he was feeling dizzy. The suit said Wright removed him from practice, gave him ice and saw that he fully recovered. He was not permitted to return to the practice even though he asked to do so.
The following day, Wright met with Nutter and Lavender, and they told him he would be removed as coach. According to the suit, he was being fired on the grounds that he was grossly negligent in the way he failed to safeguard his players, along with “a litany of false charges and accusations about previous pretextual warnings and write-ups that he had received from Nutter and others.”