A high school coach's bizarre quest to save his job on a technicality finally came to an end on Friday, shortly before the start of fall practice, after a judge threw out a claim by the coach's attorney that the district which employed him had violated proper procedures in releasing the coach from his job.
As reported by the Tennessee Valley Times Daily and Alabama ABC affiliate WAAY, Hatton (Ala.) High football coach Tyler Berryman's Lawrence County lawsuit that he was inappropriately dismissed as the school's coach was thrown out on Friday, ending a crusade to have Berryman reinstated that began shortly after his initial dismissal in May. Berryman was not retained as coach following a 19-31 overall record across four years.
Chief among Berryman's complaints was that the Lawrence County Board of Education and Superintendent Heath Grimes informed Berryman that he would not be retained as coach in a May 14 meeting, which Berryman's attorney said should not have had any impact on the coach's status for one technical yet significant reason: The general public was allowed to attend the meeting.
With members of the public there, the coach reportedly came under heavy criticism for his past failings with the program and was dismissed. Berryman's lawyers continue to contended that decision was a violation of Alabama Open Meetings Act regulations, which hold that no personnel decisions should be discussed in an open public meeting.
Yet Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Mike Jones, who was appointed to the case after a Lawrence County judge recused himself from the matter, disagreed with Berryman's lawyers' contention, instead claiming that the Lawrence County school Board was granted "absolute immunity" from the lawsuit which Berryman had filed.
After the decision had been announced, Grimes claimed that the school board had held the open meeting in part to try and protect Berryman's reputation.
"As a board and superintendent, (the lawsuit) questioned if we were doing things legally," Grimes told the Times Daily. "We had the opinions of our attorneys and the attorney general, that what we were doing was legal. It's important that people know we conduct our business in a way that is lawful and legal.
"There was no deliberation, no decision made in that meeting. It was simply to hear complaints from the public, which we feel like we were supposed to do. This was done in an effort to protect the individual."
Regardless of why it took place, Berryman and Hatton officials can finally move on with their lives, just in time for the forthcoming Hatton football season.