SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Members of the Sioux City Community School District have been named in a lawsuit filed over allegations of defamation. The suit states that the district members went back on an agreement due to falsified statements.
According to lawsuit filings with the District Court of Woodbury, Sioux City Land Developer and former Iowa State Senator Richard Bertrand is suing the Sioux City Community School District (SSCSD), former SSCSD Direct of Operations Brian Fahrendholz, and SSCSD Board President Dan Greenwell for one count of defamation and one count of respondeat superior.
Mirriam Webster defines respondeat superior as,
a doctrine in tort law that makes a master liable for the wrong of a servant,
specifically : the doctrine making an employer or principal liable for the wrong of an employee or agent if it was committed within the scope of employment or agency.
‘to recover…upon a theory of respondeat superior, it is incumbent upon plaintiff to prove that the collision occurred while the driver was within the scope of his employment’—Perdue v. Mitchell, 373 So. 2d 650 (1979)Mirriam Webster
The lawsuit alleged that Bertrand approached officials with the SSCSD about buying five acres of land near Unity Middle School that was owned by the SSCSD in September 2022.
On November 24, 2022, Bertrand allegedly met with SSCSD Superintendent Rod Earleywine regarding the sale. The documents state that Earleywine indicated that he was in favor of the sale, so Bertrand entered into a Letter of Intent with Roy Parry Construction for the development of three apartment buildings. He also discussed the project with the City of Sioux City.
According to the documents, Bertrand allegedly spoke with Greenwell on the phone to finalize the sale on January 2, but Greenwell told him that he was not interested in selling the land.
During the phone call with Bertrand, Greenwell allegedly told Bertrand that he would not be “muscled or bullied” and that he was not “drinking the Kool-Aid.” Greenwell also was accused of calling Bertrand a “dirt devil” for stealing “dirt from North High outer drive dirt job.”
According to the court documents, Greenwell told Bertrand that it was Fahrendholz who came forward with the information that Bertrand had taken dirt without providing compensation to the district.
The documents alleged that because of the false statements by Fahrendholz, Bertrand lost out on the sale and Roy Perry Construction rescinded the letter of intent, resulting in damages in excess of $7.9 million.
The documents state that Bertrand is seeking compensation for the loss of profits from the development project as well as court costs.
KCAU 9 reached out to the school district and Bertrand for a statement, and both declined to comment.