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story.lead_photo.caption Matthew Wendt

FAYETTEVILLE -- The woman who said she was the target of sexual harassment by fired Fayetteville school district Superintendent Matthew Wendt has sued to block release of related documents requested under the state's Freedom of Information Act, saying her personal privacy should outweigh the public's right to know.

Filed on behalf of "Jane Doe" in Washington County Circuit Court, the lawsuit contends the records, if released, would be an unwarranted invasion of her privacy.

"The records to be disclosed contain graphic text messages that are exceptionally personal in nature. Such information would subject the plaintiff and her family to embarrassment, harassment, and could impact her employment and relationships with friends," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes the records deal with the woman's role as a victim of sexual harassment.

"Because her complaint involved the superintendent, whose discipline is made public, her children have already had to face questions and comments at school about their mother," according to the lawsuit. "Though the superintendent's termination is unquestionably a matter of public concern, the competing interest of the plaintiff's personal privacy should be protected by [the school district]."

The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the school district from releasing the records.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette requested records related to Wendt's termination and, according to the lawsuit, other media outlets also have requested the documents. Specifically, material that formed the basis for the School Board's decision to suspend and terminate Wendt were requested by the newspaper.

[DOCUMENT: Read the lawsuit]

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued opinions Tuesday that most of the records in question should be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The School Board unanimously voted to terminate Wendt's contract June 18.

The board cited a breach of contract from a violation of the district's sexual-harassment policy. Wendt violated the policy through his derogatory and offensive conduct and communication with a female subordinate employee, according to Susan Kendall, a lawyer with the Kendall Law Firm in Rogers and the School Board's legal counsel.

The employee's lawyer, attorney Suzanne Clark, filed a sexual harassment claim March 14 and presented Chris Lawson, district general counsel, on March 15 with voice recordings of Wendt and copies of text messages between her client and Wendt that support her client's complaint, Clark said in a news release.

Clark filed the "Jane Doe" lawsuit on behalf of the employee.

On June 14, before Wendt was fired, Clark sent out a news release in which she provided details and background about many of her client's sexual-harassment allegations against Wendt and affirmed the two had had a sexual relationship.

"If Wendt wants to make his case to the public, the allegations should be public as well," Clark wrote in the release.

Clark was out of state Thursday and Friday, according to her assistant.

Alan Wilbourn, spokesman for the school district, said Thursday afternoon that the district doesn't comment on pending litigation.

State Desk on 07/14/2018

Print Headline: Accuser's suit seeks lid on files in firing

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