Federal Judge Dismisses All But Two Defendants Named In Ronald Johnson Lawsuit

SMITHFIELD – A federal court judge had dismissed claims against all but two defendants named in a 111-page lawsuit filed in June 2023 by Johnston County school board member Ronald Johnson.

United States District Judge James C. Dever III issued a 65-page ruling, on March 28, 2024, allowing Mr. Johnson to proceed with the lawsuit against the Town of Smithfield and one individual in the case.

Judge Dever dismissed most defendants from the civil lawsuit including: Johnston County Board of Education, Smithfield Town Manager Mike Scott, Smithfield Human Resources Director Tim Kerigan, Smithfield Police Lt. Terry West, retired Smithfield Police Chief Keith Powell, Smithfield Town Councilman Marlon Lee; District Attorney Susan Doyle, Assistant District Attorney Special Investigator Richard Hoffman, Johnston County Special Prosecutor Benjamin Zellinger, Angie McLeod, former school board attorney Jimmy Lawrence, and current and former school board members Todd Sutton, Terri Sessoms, Terry Tippett, Michael Wooten, Lyn Andrews, Kay Carroll, Kevin Donovan, and the Estate of Joseph Preston.

The judge ordered several claims against the Town of Smithfield be dropped, but allowed Mr. Johnson to pursue four claims. Those claims include retaliation, interference, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations, and Americans with Disability Act (ADA) retaliation.

Mr. Johnson will also be allowed to pursue defamation claims against David Marshburn who described him as a “predator” who engaged in “blackmail” and “misused government property.”

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Johnson says he was hired by the Town of Smithfield in June 2005 as a police officer and became a detective in 2012. He had excellent performance ratings. Mr. Johnson, who was fired from his job in 2022 as a police detective, and censured by the Board of Education, claims multiple violations occurred against him.

Mr. Johnson claimed the censure by the Board of Education was based on an incomplete and biased investigation, by school board attorneys, and were adopted in violation of the school board’s own processes and procedures.

The school board censures allege Johnson secretly recorded closed-door meetings, shared text messages about the appearance of a female school employee, and attempted to interfere with the assignment of two students at a school due to a personal dispute with their parent.

In 2023, Johnson was indicted by a Johnston County Grand Jury and charged with felony extortion, obstruction of justice, and failure to discharge his duties. He is awaiting trial on the criminal charges.

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