In new lawsuit, former Lee’s Summit superintendent argues he’s being targeted since resigning

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Shannon O'Brien | Fox 4 Kansas City | Source URL

KANSAS CITY, Mo -- Former Lee's Summit Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter is fighting a new battle against members of the Lee's Summit community.

Carpenter's time as superintendent was marred with controversy from the beginning, and now that he's gone, a lawsuit claims he's being unfairly targeted.

"It's not OK to interfere with any individuals right to make a living and be a provider and especially when the motives aren't pure," Carpenter said.

That's the basis of the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Jackson County.

After resigning from the school district in July, Carpenter has been consulting.

The lawsuit says in October, Carpenter received a letter from the Recruiting, Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Unity Village, asking him to be the keynote speaker at an April seminar. Carpenter accepted and was to be paid $1,500 for his appearance.

But Carpenter alleges his appearance was later canceled after Rick McDowell, president of the Lee's Summit Economic Development Council, threatened to pull the EDC's sponsorship of the event.

"They were positioning their remarks from the standpoint, 'If Carpenter is in, then we are out as a support and a sponsor of the event,'" Carpenter said. " And that's not OK, and I guess we have questions. One of many questions is who else did they do this to? Or is this just about Carpenter?"

Carpenter became the Lee's Summit superintendent in 2017 after facing multiple age discrimination lawsuits from teachers in his former district, Hickman Mills.

Controversy continued after a lengthy public battle over Carpenter's attempt to bring diversity and equity to the Lee's Summit School District. A Facebook photo also surfaced showing him making an offensive hand gesture at a tailgate party.

Attorney Chris Gahagan, who filed the lawsuit, suspects what he calls a breach of contract may be bad blood.

"There apparently is in business community or members of Lee's Summit ETC. There's no other reason why they wouldn't allow him to speak," Gahagan said.

FOX4 reached out EDC President Rick McDowell to get his side of the story but have not yet heard back.

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