Huntsville school board member named in civil suit by former employer

Mike Culbreath (Source: Huntsville City Schools)
Mike Culbreath (Source: Huntsville City Schools)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A Huntsville City School Board member is named in a civil lawsuit filed by his former employer, Breland Companies.

Mike Culbreath accused of conspiring with James Packard, a competing developer, to convince potential tenants to choose a competing development in the City of Huntsville.

Culbreath worked for Breland from 2005 until 2012. The lawsuit states Culbreath had access to confidential information and trade secrets. Breland states Culbreath used this information to benefit himself and Packard.

The lawsuit centers around the development near Interstate 565 and Zierdt Road. The lawsuit accuses Culbreath of secretly working with Packard, the developer of the Parkside project. Parkside is directly across and down I-565 from the Zierdt development. The lawsuit accuses Culbreath and Packard secretly, and cheaply, acquiring land near the project. Breland says the owner of the land approached Culbreath about the possibility of Breland about purchasing the land.

The lawsuit states the family conveyed a portion of that land to the City of Huntsville in 1987, which made the land undevelopable. Breland says Culbreath and Packard approached Dallas Fanning, Huntsville's former Urban Development Director, about vacating the easement. According to the lawsuit, Packard bought the land and the night before his retirement Fanning had the City of Huntsville vacate the easement.

According to the court documents, the land was then acquired to use for Packard's Parkside project. The lawsuit states the City of Huntsville is now purchasing the land back from the defendants for more than $2M.

The lawsuit also states Culbreath was involved in the negotiations with Calhoun Community College and the Zierdt project. Calhoun selected the Parkside project for as a location. Culbreath is also accused of convincing two hotels and Cabela's to locate at Parkside instead of the Breland property.

Click here for a PDF copy of the suit.

Culbreath represents District 5 on the Huntsville City School Board.

Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement Thursday that he has met with Breland and has read the complaint.

"The facts cited in the complaint concerning the City of Huntsville's involvement with the City of Madison and the recruitment of Cabelas [sic] are not accurate," Battle said in a printed statement. "The rest of the lawsuit is a civil matter between Louis Breland and the Defendants.

"I have known and worked with the employee he cites for more than 40 years, and I have never seen that employee be anything but above board and truthful in all of my dealings," said Mayor Battle. "Further, the information available to us at the time of the filing of the complaint is inconsistent with Mr. Breland's allegations. Out of an abundance of caution, it's been turned over to the authorities."

Mike Culbreath said he could not make any statement or response about pending litigation.

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