Roanoke County's Legal Storm: Supervisors Chair Alleges Retribution in Lawsuit Against School Board
Written by: Sam Orlando
ROANOKE, VIRGINIA - In a legal filing obtained by Breaking Through News, Martha Kay Baird Hooker, Chairwoman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, has filed a lawsuit against Cheryl Facciani, Timothy Greenway, Brent Hudson, and Dr. Ken Nicely, alleging wrongful termination and violation of her First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, claims that Ms. Hooker, a lifelong educator with a 19-year career in Roanoke County Public Schools, was terminated from her position as the Work-Based Learning Coordinator in retaliation for her political activities and expressions.
Fired for Her Vote?
Ms. Hooker, who retired from education in May 2021, was hired by Roanoke County Public Schools to continue her role as the Work-Based Learning Coordinator according to the suit. The complaint details her positive performance in the position and her involvement in civic leadership roles.
The lawsuit highlights tensions between the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) over funding issues. It alleges that changes in funding distribution methods, as voted on by the BOS, led to friction with the defendants, who were members of the RCPS Board.
First Amendment Violation
Ms. Hooker asserts that her termination was politically motivated and in violation of her First Amendment rights. The complaint states that she engaged in political speech, including her campaign for re-election, votes as a BOS member, and discussions with defendants regarding RCPS funding allocation.
The lawsuit argues that defendants violated Ms. Hooker's First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C § 1983, and that they were aware of this violation when terminating her. The complaint further claims that the termination was conducted with reckless and/or callous indifference to her legal rights.
The allegations in the complaint raise important questions over how county employees can manage their responsibilities in elected office, without losing their jobs if they disagree over funding issues.
Ms. Hooker is seeking judgment against the defendants, Cheryl Facciani, Timothy Greenway, Brent Hudson, and Dr. Ken Nicely, for general damages, compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, equitable relief, and punitive damages. The relief also includes pre-judgment interest, incidental and consequential costs, as well as attorneys' fees.
The plaintiff has requested a jury trial on all matters that may be subject to trial. Breaking Through News has reached out to the parties but has no received comment at press time. This story will be updated with comments should any of the parties respond.
Breaking Through News will continue to follow this developing story and provide updates as the legal proceedings unfold.