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A former tennis coach at Lansing Catholic High School is suing the Catholic Diocese of Lansing, claiming school officials misled parents into thinking he was fired from the job when he had actually been able to retire.
Ron Landfair, longtime boys’ varsity tennis coach and ministry director, filed a lawsuit in April alleging that school officials — in an intentionally misleading message to parents — implied they had fired Landfair in 2017 following “inappropriate” text messages with a student, when instead Landfair had been left to peacefully retire.
The lawsuit specifically names the Diocese of Lansing, Bishop Earl Boyea, Lansing Catholic High School and Principal Doug Moore and seeks to recover more than $25,000 in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint also contends school officials painted Landfair in a “false light.”
“Mr. Landfair retired with a superior record,” said Landfair’s attorney, Karen Lopez. “He had an excellent record, yet they put out this defamatory message that somehow he had been ‘let go.’ That implies he was fired. He wasn’t fired. He retired.”
A copy of the high school’s 2017 message to parents wasn’t included in court records, but a retraction demand sent by Lopez before the lawsuit claimed it included the language “let go” rather than “retired” and had wrongly implied that Landfair was in some way involved with messages to students that were deemed “inappropriate.”
Landfair worked for the Diocese for more than 20 years, most recently as its director of multicultural ministries — an outreach position left unfilled since his departure in October 2017. He also served several years as varsity boys’ tennis coach at Lansing Catholic High School and repeatedly led the team to state championship games.
Landfair declined to comment for this story, but his lawsuit also claims the subsequent damage to his reputation caused by the implication of termination and misconduct has only caused emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, depression and has undoubtedly worsened any possible prospects for future employment.
Court records further state Landfair waited until this year to demand a retraction for the now 2-year-old message only because he was previously unaware that it had been sent.
Officials at the diocese didn’t return phone calls for this story, but court records show their attorneys dispute the bulk of Landfair’s contentions.
Tom Meagher, attorney for the diocese and Lansing Catholic High School, said the suit lacks merit. “He said he was intentionally defamed. We don’t think that’s the case.”
Meagher declined to elaborate on his defense as the case proceeds in 30th Circuit Court. Records show the lawsuit has been referred to third-party mediation in an attempt to reach a resolution ahead of a trial.
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for continued coverage as the litigation continues.