The Prince William County School Board hired an outside law firm Tuesday to defend Superintendent Steve Walts in a lawsuit filed by former school board Chair Ryan Sawyers.
Sawyers filed the suit against Walts and the school board July 13, according to county court records.
Sawyers is alleging that Walts made defamatory comments in a since-deleted social media video that Walts posted May 7 in defense of his Twitter use. Sawyers is seeking more than $2.35 million, claiming Walts’ comments “subjected him to underserved scorn, embarrassment, humiliation and contumely as a resident of Prince William County.”
Before the video was removed, it had more than 29,000 views, according to the complaint.
Sawyers asked for damages in his complaint, arguing “Walts’ false and defamatory statements damaged Sawyers’ personal and professional reputation by alleging conduct that is reprehensible to him as a former school board chairman, businessperson, coach and father,” according to the complaint.
While Walts never mentioned Sawyers by name in the video, he did reference “a former school board member.”
Current board Chair Babur Lateef declined to comment to InsideNoVa on the matter. He did note the division has insurance that covers legal representation when the school board or superintendent are sued.
The board spent more than six hours in closed session Tuesday to discuss Walts’ annual evaluation, along with the lawsuit.
The board didn't take any action Tuesday regarding Walts' employment contract. Lateef said the board plans to schedule a meeting in August to discuss goals for Walts after the evaluation. Usually after the evaluation, Walts informs the school board if he wants to extend his employment contract.