One of the former employers of Michael R. Hazelton, the charter school guru who I wrote an investigative profile about last year, is firing back after Hazelton sued a now-shuttered school and its leader.

A recap: Hazelton is an administrator who led three Southern California charter schools in four years, each of which was left suffering deficits or battling accusations that he improperly enriched himself by the time he left. One of those schools was Cortez Hill, where auditors found that Hazelton had raised his own salary without board approval. Deficits at the school jumped from $16,559 to $188,187 in the single year that Hazelton worked there. Principal Jacqueline Hicks said she had been “ripped off” by Hazelton.

You might remember that back in February, Hazelton filed suit against Cortez Hill and Hicks, alleging that the school had failed to pay him his full wages, inflicted emotional distress and invaded his privacy by allegedly sharing a letter with a parent in which Hicks “maliciously, unlawfully and for an improper purpose” said she would file embezzlement charges against Hazelton with the police.

He contended that the letter was part of his personnel file and therefore private. It resulted in “the impairment of and damage to his good name and reputation,” along with lost earnings, difficulty getting a new job, and humiliation, discomfort and embarrassment, the claim states. Hazelton advertised a new learning center after the last of the schools he led was closed; the center has since expanded to support families who are homeschooling.

Cortez Hill and Hicks countered that because the accusation of embezzlement centers on his actions as principal of Cortez Hill, it’s unreasonable for Hazelton to expect that any wrongdoing wouldn’t be publicized. “Without doubt, the public has a legitimate interest in the activities of a school principal,” it continues.

The two articles we wrote are included by the attorneys as exhibits in the case.

Lawyers are scheduled to next confer on the case in September.


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