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Portland (Ore.) district settles lawsuit with ousted administrator

Yousuf Awwad, who was removed as the district’s chief operating officer in November 2017, sued the district for wrongful termination.

The Portland (Ore.) school district has settled a lawsuit with a former chief operating officer and interim superintendent who was ousted in 2017 after being accused of having an illicit relationship with a subordinate.

The Portland Oregonian reports that Yousuf Awwad, who was removed as the district’s second-in-command in November 2017 by newly hired Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, will receive nearly $350,000 to settle the wrongful termination suit he filed last year. Charese Rohny, an attorney who represented Awwad, received $327,525.

Awwad’s suit contended, among other things, that then-board chair Julia Brim-Edwards launched an investigation into his conduct and hired a lawyer to lead it without a public vote, in violation of public meetings law. The suit also asserted and that Brim-Edwards was motivated against him by racial animus and because he rejected her supposed bid to become superintendent.

Brim-Edwards has denied the allegations.

District spokesman David Roy said the $675,000 payout won’t come out of district coffers but is instead covered by an insurance policy. Because the settlement decision was made by the insurance company, the deal did not require a public vote by the school board.

Prior to Guerrero’s taking the helm of Portland Public Schools, Awwad was one of few top-level staffers who weathered a turbulent time that saw a high level of turnover. Awwad served as interim superintendent before Guerrero was hired in fall 2017.

Just weeks before classes started that year, Awwad was under investigation after a series of anonymous complaints surfaced about his relationship with a subordinate. Awwad said he was adhering to district policy by disclosing the relationship to his supervisor, McKean, a claim that an external investigator later vindicated.

District officials declined to comment on the settlement with Awwad beyond prepared remarks.

“We have reached a settlement with Yousef Awwad who has served as CFO, deputy CEO and interim Superintendent...during challenging times. We appreciate all his efforts on behalf of the district’s students, and we wish him much success,” the district said in a statement.

Awwad similarly provided a statement within the settlement document.

“I am proud of the work I did for Portland Public Schools and honored to have had the privilege of serving Portland’s students. I wish continued success to the district in fulfilling its critical mission in this community,” he said.

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