BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A former Biloxi Public Schools employee who blasted the district in 2018 with accusations of unethical behavior, illegal activities, and retaliation has filed a lawsuit against BPS, its former superintendent, and some of the district’s administrative staff.
Namely, the complaint alleges that former superintendent Arthur McMillan used district money and employees for his daughter’s wedding. McMillan retired from BPS last year.
The complaint, which was filed in federal court last week, says former employee Victoria Conway suffered severe psychological distress after coming forward publicly to reveal illegal activity within the district. Additionally, Conway said she was terminated from her job as a result, which she alleges is a clear violation of the district’s Whistleblower Protection policy it adopted after her public letter to the district.
Conway worked for more than 10 years as the administrative assistant to the child nutrition director at BPS. After obtaining direct knowledge about illegal activities, Conway said she told her mother, who is also a longtime district employee. Those allegations were then passed along to her mother’s boss, school board member Jane Meynardie.
Among the illegal activities included on the list were allegations McMillan utilized school equipment and school employees during school hours to deliver and set up tables for his daughter’s 2018 wedding.
In addition to giving that information to Meynardie, it was also reported by Conway’s mother to the state auditor’s office, which launched an investigation in October 2018.
The complaint states that instead of launching an investigation, BPS instead gave the information to McMillan and the district’s chief financial officer Shane Switzer, who is responsible for district finances. That information was easily traced back to Conway, who then suffered retaliation as a result, says the lawsuit.
The retaliatory behavior led to Dixie Eleuterius, Conway’s immediate supervisor, harassing Conway in various ways, including refusing to speak to her, slamming doors and file cabinets, tossing paperwork, and shutting Conway out of her office, said the lawsuit.
In the two-page letter, she describes how a few years ago she “began to see things that set off alarms that were not only unethical but illegal.”
The actions of her supervisor became so distressing to her that Conway said she was forced to seek treatment from the psychological harm.
After Conway went public, writing a letter of complaint to the school board in November 2018 detailing the harassment, she said her job was terminated. The lawsuit states the decision not to renew her employment contract was made as a result of her reporting the illegal activity and speaking out publicly about it, a decision Conway defends as a First Amendment right to free speech regarding an issue of public concern.