Superintendent speaks out about potentially costly fight with School Board

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Clay County Superintendent Charlie Van Zant spoke out Thursday about a potentially costly fight between him and the members of the School Board.

Van Zant says the School Board is breaking the law by changing job requirements for a district position without accepting his recommendation. Now he's suing.

Van Zant has hired a private lawyer to help him as he fights to overturn the School Board's changes. He can't use the district's attorney because he'll be a witness, and the private attorney will cost an estimated $100,000, paid for by taxpayers.

"I don't do this lightly," Van Zant said. "I don't take any pleasure out of having to take the School Board's business and the superintendent's business to the court of appeal. But I feel very compelled to do so."

Van Zant said it's not easy asking taxpayers to foot the bill in a legal fight, but he said he's already tried to work the issue out with the board.

"I've brought that to them in a letter back in December. I brought it to them again in a letter, maybe March," he said.

But Clay County School Board Chairman Carol Suddard disagrees. She says this latest action is typical of Van Zant.

"I get the feeling that if the superintendent doesn't get his way he threatens litigation," Suddard said. "This is the second time in the last few months that he has threatened litigation."

This is just the latest in a power struggle between the board and the superintendent. This year the board pushed for a policy requiring all pay supplements for the superintendent be approved by the board, something that had be done automatically in years past. As for this situation, both sides say they still believe they can reach an agreement.

"I don't think it's ever too late, but I would hope that he would reconsider because we are talking about taxpayers' dollars," Suddard said.

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