Sensabaugh files $5M federal suit against Halliburton, Washington County

Gerald Sensabaugh, pictured in a WCYB Archive photo, is suing Washington County Director of School Kimber Halliburton and the Board of Education for $5 million, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Greeneville. (WCYB Archive)

An attorney for Former David Crockett High School head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Greeneville Friday accusing Washington County, Tennessee Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton of violating his constitutional rights.

Documents obtained by News 5 show Sensabaugh seeks $5 million from Halliburton and the Washington County Board of Education along with reinstatement to his position at Crockett High .

Sensabaugh confirmed to News 5's Mike Lucas that he had hired an attorney to file the suit.

"I just want to get back on the field and help these kids out," the coach told News 5 on Friday.

The coach was placed on indefinite leave by Halliburton in October following a recommendation from Crockett principal Peggy Wright who called the former Dobyns Bennett High and NFL player "unpredictable, unprofessional, accusatory and hostile."

In the suit, Sensabaugh said Halliburton took adverse action against the coach after he made comments on his personal Facebook account about facilities and schools in the system needing upgrades for the betterment of students.

"...Director Halliburton's actions in orchestrating the pretextual narrative levied against Coach Sensabaugh in close proximity after he had publicly posted his comments on matters of public concern via Facebook, evidences Director Halliburton's evil motive, actual malice, and/or callous and reckless disregard for Coach Sensabaugh's constitutionally-protected right of free speech," the suit says.

Halliburton said in October concerning Sensabaugh's actions and social media posts: "This is more about gaining attention for himself instead of doing what is right and in the best interest of our student athletes. That's very concerning to me."

The recommendation letter for Sensabaugh's suspension included accusations of parent complaints toward the coach using profane language with players and students. Another concern was a complaint from the parent of an injured player that said Sensabaugh made the child practice despite a doctor's order.

The suit also says that Halliburton attempted to illicit Sensabaugh's support "in helping her wage an effort to remove certain school board members" from the Board of Education during a private lunch held at the Johnson City Country Club. Specifically, the document said those board members were Mary Beth Dellinger and Annette Buchanan.

"Coach Sensabaugh declined to engage in such activity promoted and encouraged by Director Halliburton and at that time over lunch at the (country club), Coach Sensabaugh lost complete trust in Director Halliburton," the suit says.

Sensabaugh remains on leave pending an independent investigation being conducted by a law firm retained by the Board of Education. Sensabaugh said he was interviewed for that investigation on Nov. 20.

Halliburton issued a comment via email Friday afternoon that said: "Counsel has not yet reviewed a copy of the suit papers; therefore, I cannot comment at this time. It is the policy of the Washington County Board of Education to respect the rights of all employees, and we have no reason to believe that any rights were violated in this case."

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