James Island Charter School's principal files suit against board

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - The principal of James Island Charter High School has filed suit against the charter school board that suspended and then fired him.

According to the lawsuit, Robert Bohnstengel alleges that failed acts of nepotism among board members led to his termination, an act Bohnstengel alleges is not within the board's power.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 2, shows that Bohnstengel is under contract with the Charleston County School District until June 30, 2014, a date that he had planned to retire from the school system.

According to the lawsuit, the charter school was formed with the understanding that anyone who had previously been a CCSD employee at the school at the time of the transition would keep their employment status with CCSD.

As a result, "CCSD's personnel policies do not contain any provision allowing a school board to place a principal on an involuntary leave of absence," the suit reads.

Bohnstengel says the board's chairman, Keith Bolus, first tried to remove him and then sought the full board's efforts to remove him.

Bohnstengel goes on to say that the ill will between the principal's office and the board came when he refused to cave to board members' pressure to hire certain people.

"Certain Defendant Board members are angry at [Bohnstengel] because he will not allow them to choose the next football coach. One board member in particular has repeatedly attempted to micromanage the sports program at JICHS believing in error that his position on the Board gives him that right," the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, Bohnstengel has also angered several people on he board by refusing to hire one member's brother and refusing to give construction work to another member.

Bohnstengel goes on to say that he thinks the board decided to act after he started to publicly complain "about their wrongful and unethical actions."

On Nov. 21, Bolus sent a letter to the principal, letting Bohnstengel know that hew would be on paid administrative leave as a "cool down period."

Bohnstengel takes exception to the letter because the lawsuit alleges it was sent to a number of people, including former board members who were not involved in the situation.

A day later, the lawsuit says Bolus told an assistant principal to take the role of interim principal and to tell the staff at the school that Bohnstengel was no longer in charge.

Bohnstengel says he sent a message to that assistant principal, which caused him to reverse course and refuse to carry out the board's orders.

Bohnstengel is seeking unspecified damages, citing lost wages and back pay as well as emotional distress and damage to his reputation that he would not be able to repair before retiring.

ABCNews4 has reached out to James Island Charter High School's attorney for comment.