A former high school football coach who promised to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed that complaint this week.
Jeff Merket, who had led the Cleburne High School football team since 2012, alleges that new Cleburne school district Superintendent Kyle Heath created a hostile work environment and bullied, harassed, threatened and retaliated against him until he had no option but to step down from his coaching position.
In the complaint, Merket, 52, alleges that the school district discriminated against him on the basis of age and retaliated against him because of his support for a former co-worker. Merket’s replacement is 39, according to the complaint.
Merket’s attorney, Matthew Scott, said Heath’s goal was to remove anyone who did not fit into his idea of what an athletic department should look like.
School district officials could not be reached for comment but on Wednesday issued a statement, according to a WFAA report, that said: “Cleburne ISD has not received any notification from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, therefore it would not be appropriate for the District to comment on any claims made by Jeff Merket or Matthew Scott.
“However, today’s action by Mr. Merket was expected and does not change the facts that are on record following an independent investigation of his complaints, conducted at his request, by Cynthia L. Hill, an attorney retained by the CISD Board of Trustees.
“The investigator concluded there is no evidence of discrimination or retaliation involving Mr. Merket. We believe that any further investigation will reach the same conclusion and that Mr. Merket did not provide any relevant additional information in statements made after the report was released to Trustees on April 12, 2017.”
Pam Lea, who was also represented by Scott, served as Cleburne’s athletic director during Heath’s tenure. Lea also resigned and had filed her own lawsuit alleging discrimination. Lea, who was seeking $1 million in damages, recently settled her case, Scott said.
“Heath didn’t think an older woman should be the AD, so he replaced her with a much younger man,” Scott said. “Then he targeted Coach Merket because Coach Merket was loyal to Pam Lea, because Coach Merket saw that Pam Lea’s removal was unlawful, and because Coach Merket wouldn’t go along with Heath’s way of doing things.”
Scott said Merket was not interviewed during the school district’s investigation, which clouds the conclusions that were reached. Whoever pays for an investigation gets the results they pay for, Scott said.
“The district said they had an independent investigator who said there was nothing there,” Scott said. “You are not going to get an independent investigation from someone who is paid by the district.”