Friday, August 27, 2010

There Goes More Money

OMG.

I will write a complete round-up of the upcoming Board meeting but I can tell you the Board will set the fastest record for taking a vote in the history of Board meetings.

How do I know?

Because they have to vote to spend (gulp!) $997,610.40 to satisfy a judgment (that lost in the jury trial and lost in appeals) to a plaintiff (one Glenda Williams) in a sexual harassment case.

Now I'm sure the district has some kind of insurance but do I know if it covers all this judgment? Probably not as the district is on the hook for costs and lawyer fees (although the plaintiff has agreed if they pay by September 10, they will be a reduction in attorney fees).

I'll have go down and read through the transcript on this one. I have to wonder why the district fought back on this one and didn't settle (maybe they tried but that will be hard to find out). But good to know we can loan out our legal counsel to teach business practice classes for the capital side when we have issues like this one looming over us.

12 comments:

another mom said...

Reading through the court documents that includes the district's appeal was instructive. A jury awarded her 800,000+ that includes attorneys fees. The district appealed that and lost. They fought this tooth and nail, and since the original judgement was rendered the cost to the district has increased. I sure hope that they have insurance.

The harassment occurred in 2003.

kprugman said...

The original judgement was $675k (2008). I take it that means fees for both attorneys was almsot half the judgement. The suit was against the district - Method had jsut started working at BHS. So the whole thing reads like a huge mess - Insurance bailout? Surely you jest.

Glenda Williams sued the Seattle Public Schools on hostile workplace and retaliation theories claiming that she was retaliated against after reporting that she was being sexually harassed by principal Method Odoemene.

http://www.morelaw.com/verdicts/case.asp?n=&s=WA&d=37191

kprugman said...

Here's some little known case law, that might help teachers facing district retaliation. It helps to have a Doctorate in Education. But teachers who side with the laws have recourse with or without assistance from the DOE.

Dr. Pamella Settlegoode, an adaptive PE teacher, was retaliated against and fired because she advocated for students with disabilities. She sued the Portland Public Schools and her supervisors. On November 16, 2001, a jury found for Dr. Settlegoode on all claims. The jury awarded her 1 million dollars and an additional $50,000 in punitive damages against the director of special education and an assistant.

A few months later, a magistrate judge overturned the jury award. Pamella Settlegoode appealed.

On March 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published a decision that reinstated the jury award in Pamella Settlegoode's case. This decision will open doors for other teachers who feel trapped in oppressive work environments. With support from advocacy litigation agencies, teachers will use this case as a roadmap.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/retaliate.settlegoode.htm

You have to experience a retaliation first-hand before you understand how devastating it is for professionals who are guided by their ethics, not money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to explain, the district goes to outside counsel on these types of cases. The district's own legal counsel does not have the expertise (and law, like medicine, does specialize so that is not a slam against district counsel).

I now need to find out more about this legal settlement fund, how much money sits in there at any given time and where that money comes from.

Sahila said...

Melissa - you might like to investigate the ethics and law around the District using taxpayer money to mount a legal response to the recall of individual board members... who surely, ought to be responsible for their own legal representation if they want to challenge the recall?

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/seattle-public-schools-board-of-directors-recall-update/

Some of us will be asking the State Auditor what he thinks about this use of public money....

Sahila said...

Oh - and how much is it costing us to appeal the Spectre math text decision against the District?

dan dempsey said...

"I'll have go down and read through the transcript on this one. I have to wonder why the district fought back on this one and didn't settle (maybe they tried but that will be hard to find out)."?

Doesn't the District have a history of failing to settle on cases that most would see as reasonable to settle?

Racial Tied Breaker at the US Supreme Court (????) .... anyone who had completed 6th grade social studies should have seen that loss coming from day one. ... Good thing there is no World Supreme Court or the district would have taken it there.

How is that legal action going with the Teacher who filed suit over wrongful dismal from MOLDY
Nathan Hale?

Still no word from Marty McLaren on the High School Math Appeal. All the filings and rebuttals are done but the waiting for the assigning of the three judges and a hearing date has yet to happen.

The District has retained Carr Tuttle Campbell to intervene in the Recall of 5 school board members. Case #10-2-30438-0 SEA. A motion to allow the intervention is scheduled without oral argument for September 10 before Judge Mary Yu.

The intervention hopes to have the recall dismissed for insufficiency.

In the event the recall is found sufficient the intervention hopes to influence the writing of the petition statement.

another mom said...

@kprugman, what I read indicated that in the original judgement an additional $200 thousand or so was awarded for attorney fees in the original judgement. Maybe I misread something.

Charlie Mas said...

Accountability anyone? There was back then. Sharon Wilkins was the education director for high schools in 2003, but she was replaced by Ammon McWashington in March of 2004 after her decision to re-assign the victim.

The President of the Ballard PTSA who met with Raj Manhas and requested Mr. Odoemene's re-assignment was none other than Michael DeBell.

Check out this Seattle Times article, and this one.

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

Last line from Charlie's last link:

The district is looking for a suitable position for Williams and hopes to resolve the situation soon, Steinberg said.

That was Oct of 2003 ....

Looks like in August of 2010 the resolution may have happened at around 7 years and $1 million later.

The SPS still remains a stimulus act for lawyers.
===================

The District once again refuses to comply with RCW 28A 645.020, which requires filings to be "Certified Correct" that are used when School Board decisions are appealed.

In regard to the appeal of the Superintendent's contract extension ...See the latest HERE.

Note the date of August 12 (still not certified correct) but exactly 20 days after the filing of the appeal.

WA Supreme Court will be dealing with the failure of the fulfillment of "Certified Correct" on September 7. NO BIG deal for three K.C. Superior Court judges .... legislation from the bench is popular among many judges .... does it extend to the WA Supreme Court justices as well?

Anonymous said...

Melissa

The slam is justified against district counsel is when inept advise is given to upper management by internal legal counsel. In this case, I know things were done to both Williams and Odename that was both unethical and uncalled for. The district retaliated against Williams AND Odemame and so the court upheld. Just ask the interim HR director.