A lawsuit filed by union bus drivers against the Columbia County school system in December remained in the discovery phase Thursday.
Two current and two former bus drivers for the county had filed the suit, saying they were discriminated against because of their affiliation with Transport Workers Union Local 279.
Plaintiff attorney John Quinn said the suit seeks a return to work, back pay and potential damages on behalf of sisters Sissy Hobbs and Jamie Usry, who were fired Dec. 16.
At the time, Columbia County school Superintendent Tommy Price said Hobbs and Usry were terminated for violating board procedures. The women said they were targeted because of their union ties.
Hobbs is the union president and is running for a spot on the school board in the November general election.
Plaintiff Beverly Parks is seeking to have a disciplinary incident expunged from her record, and Pam Sullivent wants back pay for a delay in her application for re-employment, Quinn said.
More than 15 depositions on both sides of the case have taken place in recent weeks, school board attorney Bill Fleming said. Among those deposed as of Thursday includes two school board members, system administrators and plaintiffs, he said.
Both sides of the argument recently filed a motion to extend the discovery phase to Oct. 31, Fleming said.
"Basically, the union sent over a potential witness list with 60 or 70 names on it," he said. "We've been trying to go through those to get those depositions."
That job was recently made easier by plaintiff attorneys paring down the list, Fleming said.
One result of the depositions was a motion to delete a segment of the lawsuit from the school system for what the plaintiffs said was an infraction of their First Amendment right to free speech.
"There has been a motion filed to amend the complaint to narrow the scope of the issues based on discovery to date," Quinn said. "We're focusing specifically on the personnel actions taken against four different individuals."
Initially, the plaintiffs said school officials prevented them from speaking at school board meetings.
"We've made progress in getting those things resolved," Quinn said. "That's why we're focusing on personnel actions."
Quinn was unsure how much longer the discovery phase of the lawsuit might continue. Fleming said he doubts the case will go to trial before the end of the year.
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