PAISD brings in Chappell in wrongful death suit

David Yates Dec. 18, 2014, 12:10pm


Over the past several years, the Record has reported on the plethora of suits brought against the Beaumont Independent School District.

And in the vast majority of those cases, the district has been represented by Melody Chappell, attorney for the Beaumont law firm Wells, Peyton, Greenberg & Hunt.

On Nov. 25 the Port Arthur Independent School District took a page from BISD and added Chappell as additional counsel in a wrongful termination suit brought in June.

Plaintiff LaWonda Renee Drake filed suit against PAISD on June 3 in the Jefferson County District Court, citing retaliatory firing.

Court records show PAISD filed the motion to add Chappell on Nov. 11. Two weeks later, Judge Tom Rugg, 58th District Court, granted the motion.

According to the first amended petition, Drake has worked in various positions within the school system since 1989 and was transferred to a warehouse to work as a shipping and receiving clerk on Sept. 10, 2013.

Drake claims she smelled a gas odor on Oct. 3, 2013, and attempted to report it to her supervisor but couldn’t reach him, so she reported it to the maintenance department.

It happened again in November 2013 and again she couldn’t reach her supervisor, so Drake reported it to the school superintendent, along with what she alleges were other potential fire and safety violations such as no smoke alarms or sprinkler system and inaccessible fire extinguishers.

Her supervisor allegedly told her not to contact the superintendent again without his permission, the suit states. The same situation occurred again in February and the supervisor could not be reached, so Drake called the Port Arthur Fire Department.

During an internal investigation, Drake was asked if she called the Fire Marshall and she stated she did not. She was terminated March 6 on grounds she lied about calling the Fire Marshall, the complaint states.

Drake is seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

Private attorney Solomon Morrow of Houston is representing her.

Jefferson County District Court Case No. A195-760

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