FLORENCE, S.C. – Former West Florence athletic director and football coach Trey Woodberry has filed a suit against Florence One Schools and an individual.
Woodberry has sued the district for defamation and former West Florence Interim Principal Kelvin Wymbs for civil conspiracy. The suit was filed on Monday, according to records of the South Carolina Justice Department.
Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley said he did not have a comment yet, as he has not yet seen the suit and he was not in Florence at the time of the actions alleged in the lawsuit.
Woodberry did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment Monday afternoon.
He joins former West Florence basketball coach Pete Ellis in filing suit against the district and Wymbs related to several departures from West Florence during the spring of 2018.
The complaint says that Woodberry took over as the head football coach at West Florence in 2005 and as athletic director in 2014. It continues to say that Woodberry maintained an exemplary work record without disciplinary action.
Woodberry had, according to the complaint, “heard rumors” from other coaches during the fall of 2017 that Wymbs was talking to Aynor football coach Jody Jenerette about the head football coach job at West Florence.
Jenerette was eventually named as Woodberry’s replacement. He led the Knights to an 11-2 season and a regional championship in 2018. It was their first regional championship since 2012.
The complaint further alleges that in early January, Wymbs called Woodberry and told him that he [Wymbs] had a good person to take over the football job when Woodberry left.
At the time, West Florence Principal Pam Quick had been placed on administrative leave. Wymbs was her replacement.
“When plaintiff told Defendant Wymbs that he had no plans to leave his position as Head Football Coach, Defendant Wymbs encouraged Plaintiff to reduce his duties to athletic director,” the complaint says.
An assistant principal, the complaint continues to allege, then called Woodberry on Feb. 14 and offered the choice of either position and a deadline of Feb. 16 to choose.
Woodberry allegedly received multiple phone calls from the assistant principal and Wymbs to “pressure him to resign as Head Football Coach” while on a visit to Charleston.
Woodberry allegedly informed them that he believed he could continue to serve in both capacities.
To which Wymbs allegedly said, “I will get your … you mother. … You will listen to a white woman but not a black man, … you.”
The complaint says upon information and belief the referenced woman was Quick.
On Feb. 23, 2018, Quick resigned and Wymbs was appointed to replace her for the remainder of the school year.
Then, the complaint alleges that on March 1, Wymbs and the assistant principal called Woodberry into the school’s administrative office and ordered Woodberry to fire the volleyball coach, Hillary Pratt, and basketball coach, Ellis.
Woodberry was allegedly instructed to tell the coaches that their programs needed to go in a different direction.
“After this meeting, as instructed, Plaintiff [Woodberry] called the volleyball coach and removed her from her position so the school could ‘go in a different direction,’” the complaint continues. “Coach Pratt was unhappy and did not understand why a ‘different direction’ was needed after the volleyball program had just completed a season with 16 wins, only two losses, placed second in the region, and had won its first playoff game in more than a decade.”
Wymbs allegedly summoned Woodberry back into his office that day to scold him, because other people had found out about the coaching changes.
Woodberry guessed that Pratt had informed others, according to the complaint.
Then, Wymbs allegedly warned Woodberry that his actions over the next week would determine his fate at the school. Wymbs also allegedly assured Woodberry that Wymbs had the superintendent’s blessing to do whatever was needed.
Wymbs also allegedly accused Woodberry of “doing nothing for the kids.”
These statements are a part of Woodberry’s allegation of defamation by Wymbs on behalf of the district. Woodberry also alleges that Wymbs, on behalf of the district, published to multiple people that Woodberry was incompetent at his job and that Woodberry had engaged in unprofessional conduct.
Wymbs allegedly told Woodberry that he would get West Florence back like he got Wilson, another Florence One School, back.
On March 2, Woodberry also was allegedly pressed by the assistant principal to get a resignation letter from Pratt and to fire Ellis. Woodberry sought and received permission to wait until the winter sports banquet to fire Ellis so the players could celebrate the end of their season with him.
Pratt allegedly refused to provide a resignation letter. She eventually did leave but said she was fired.
On March 8, Woodberry called Ellis to his office and asked for a written resignation letter for the head basketball job.
The next day, Ellis allegedly agreed to provide the resignation letter if he could keep his teaching job.
Wymbs allegedly assured Ellis he could keep his teaching job in a meeting on that day.
On March 9, Woodberry went to Ellis’ house to pick up the resignation letter, according to the complaint.
On March 16, during a meeting, Wymbs allegedly threatened Woodberry, indicating that if the football team did not have a good season in 2018, Woodberry would be fired and, if the defense did not play well at the beginning of the season, the defensive coordinator would be replaced.
On March 18, another assistant principal, Randy Jackson, allegedly called Woodberry and informed him that he could save his job if he would be willing to help “take down” Quick. Another assistant principal then sent an email threatening to place Woodberry on administrative leave if Woodberry did not provide the names of coaches who interviewed for coaching jobs. Another email was sent by yet another assistant principal to encourage transparency and cooperation in a Freedom of Information Act request by a local news organization.
Woodberry allegedly received a call from a news reporter about accusations that Quick had changed grades to keep athletes eligible and that the volleyball coach interviews to replace Pratt were mishandled.
In an effort to be 100 percent transparent, Woodberry told the reporter that a student that Woodberry allegedly did not identify on the volleyball team had been deemed ineligible because of failure to attend classes.
Quick had allegedly told Woodberry that the player had made up the classes, so the player was deemed eligible by the school, which is what Woodberry allegedly informed the reporter.
Wymbs then called Woodberry about notes from the interviews for the volleyball job and allegedly threatened to place Woodberry on administrative leave if he did not provide the information.
On March 19, Wymbs allegedly called Woodberry into his office and questioned him about the notes that Wymbs allegedly thought were insufficient.
Later that day, Woodberry received a phone call from a district employee informing him that he was being placed on administrative leave for the lack information on the volleyball interviews and his comments to the reporter.
Woodberry allegedly attempted to argue that he had not identified the student. The district employee alleged Woodberry had provided enough context for the reporter to be able to identify the student.
This is the basis of Woodberry’s allegation of civil conspiracy against Wymbs. Woodberry alleges that Wymbs conspired to force Woodberry’s resignation as football coach in order to hire Jenerette.
On March 20, during a meeting at the district office, Woodberry was informed that his options were termination, reassignment or discipline.
On March 22, Woodberry was instructed to report to the district office where he met with the district employee and Wymbs. Woodberry was told he was being reassigned to an elementary school and was allegedly asked for a letter of resignation as football coach.
On March 26, facing either termination or discipline, Woodberry submitted a resignation letter.
News of the resignation soon broke across multiple media outlets with statements from the district’s interim superintendent being quoted.
At some point during the fall, Quick’s teaching license was suspended, news of which broke on Christmas Eve.
Wymbs allegedly sent Woodberry four text messages saying, “I guess you have seen the story on WMBF. Merry Christmas [emoji] [emoji].”
The next text message read, “the lies are catching up with you your license is next!@ I cant wait!”
The third and fourth text messages read, “….! Oh and I forgot to call you. will turn all this over to the state department so you Charlie and your punk … wife can keep talking.”
Wymbs allegedly continued the text messages.
“slow wine punk … like the basketball coach from Hartsville did you tell your wife you punk …!!,” the text messages say according to the complaint. “when the truth hits Charlie devine trey is next!! bion shoemaker whipped your punk …!”
Devine was or is an assistant football coach at Conway High School.
Shoemaker is a former basketball coach at West Florence and Hartsville.
The complaint says Woodberry believes “wine” in the text messages to be an autocorrect change for “white.”