The attorney for a football coach who parted ways with Hilton Head Prep less than a month after being hired by the school filed a lawsuit against the school and its headmaster Friday, according to a document filed in district court.
Hilton Head Island attorney John Bowen filed a suit against Hilton Head Prep and headmaster Anthony Kandel on behalf of Alex Marx, who accepted an offer to coach the Dolphins on April 28 and was informed the offer had been rescinded May 21, according to the lawsuit.
Bowen also represents former Hilton Head Prep coach Ron Peduzzi, who parted ways with the school earlier in April, but no suit has been filed on Peduzzi's behalf.
Marx's suit alleges Hilton Head Prep is in breach of contract -- and asks for $125,000 actual damages -- and accuses Kandel of slander and defamation of character for remarks it claims he made to third parties.
Kandel responded to a phone message with an email, saying, "Hilton Head Prep does not believe Mr. Marx's claims have any merit and will vigorously defend the lawsuit."
He referred all further questions to the school's attorney, Michael Pitts of Nexsen Pruet in Greenville, who declined to comment.
The suit cites a string of emails between Marx and Kandel in which the parties agree to a one-year contract from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, that would make Marx the school's director of facilities and head football coach and include a $60,000 annual salary, $1,000 toward moving expenses, health insurance benefits, a sum for professional development so Marx would complete his master's degree in facilities management and a 50 percent tuition reduction for Marx's two children to attend Hilton Head Prep.
Kandel confirmed Marx's hire to The Island Packet on April 29 and said Marx had volunteered his time to travel from New Jersey to run Hilton Head Prep's spring football practices.
After accepting the offer, the suit says Marx declined a teaching and coaching offer at another school, and that he and his wife resigned from their jobs, contracted movers and entered into an agreement to rent a home on Hilton Head Island.
After completing two weeks of spring practices on May 16, the suit says, Marx received an email from the school confirming the details of the previous contract agreement.
Five days later, the suit says Marx received a phone call from a school representative informing him the contract had been rescinded.
Kandel confirmed to The Island Packet on May 23 that Marx was no longer with the school, saying, "It was simply not the right fit." He also said Kevin Orford had been named Marx's replacement as head football coach.
Bowen said Marx did not sign a physical contract because Kandel told him the school no longer uses written contracts, but he argues the email string constitutes an offer and acceptance, which the later email confirmed.
The $125,000 in damages include "the value of his salary and benefit package, the reduced tuition for his children, moving and relocation expenses, the value of his labor during spring football and other incidental and consequential damages," according to the suit. Bowen said Marx already has moved to Hilton Head Island, and his family plans to join him shortly.
In the interim period between the end of spring football and the rescinding of the contract offer, the suit says, Kandel told third parties Marx "was not fit for his trade or profession, that he had asked parents of HHP football players for money, and had thereby committed illegal acts." The suit says Kandel's remarks were repeated to other community members, including Thomas Haidon, the parent of a player and a volunteer assistant football coach at Hilton Head Prep.
Haidon said Marx expected to be reimbursed for his expenses to travel from New Jersey for spring drills but was not. He said he and other parents took Marx out to dinner while he was on the island.
"I spent roughly about 50 hours with Alex Marx, and at no time at all did he ever ask any parent or anybody for any money at all," Haidon said. "I was told that was one of the reasons (the contract was rescinded).
"I definitely thought he was going to do a capable job," Haidon added. "I thought he was well-qualified. His credentials speak for themselves."