Jeanie Thompson lawsuit moves on to April jury trial 12.27

Written by David Green.

Although three counts of a lawsuit filed by a former Morenci school administrator have been dropped, one still remains.

A motion to dismiss that issue was rejected Dec. 17 by Lenawee County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Pickard and the case remains scheduled for an April 22 jury trial.

Jeanie Thompson and her husband, Scott, filed a four-part lawsuit in June relating to her July 2006 layoff when she served as Morenci Elementary School principal.

Thompson seeks a financial settlement for breach of contract, but charges of acting fraudulently, causing emotional distress and loss of consortium are no longer part of the case.

At the end of the standard six-month discovery period last week, school attorney Bill Vogelzang, Jr., sought dismissal of the remaining count—breach of contract.

The suit initially charged school superintendent Kyle Griffith and the board of education with acting fraudulently in executing new contracts that allowed all administrative staff members to be laid off with only a 30-day notice. Thompson joined other staff members in signing the contract in April 2006, then she and maintenance supervisor Dan Miller were laid off in July in an effort to trim a projected $300,000 budget deficit.

When the lawsuit was filed Jan. 22, 2007, Griffith was charged with acting fraudulently—he misled Thompson by encouraging her to sign the new contract and later laying her off. That charge was eventually removed from the suit.

The two other counts dropped from the suit are loss of consortium in the marriage, filed by Thompson’s husband, Scott, and infliction of emotional distress.

According to an article in the Adrian Daily Telegram, Vogelzang argued in court there were no violations of the contract and Thompson’s layoff was due entirely to financial conditions in the district.

Thompson’s attorney Gregg Iddings argued that the new contract was not valid at the time of the layoff because board of education members didn’t approve the new administrative contracts until Aug. 7, several weeks after the layoff.

According to Iddings, Thompson was assured by Griffith that she was not in danger of losing her job. Her subsequent layoff shows evidence of bad faith, Iddings argued.

Judge Pickard refused to dismiss the breach of contract charge, but made the decision based on a different issue. He told the attorneys that Thompson failed to receive adequate compensation for accepting the terms of the new contract.

Pickard said that school districts typically offer administrators two-year contracts that are renewed annually. This gives them a one-year notice to begin searching for a new job.

He said the new contract benefitted the school district, but offered administrators no compensation for what they gave up.

Vogelzang noted Friday that this point is not part of Thompson’s complaint. He expects to request a reconsideration from the judge since the issue was raised for the first time last week.

Pickard suggested resolving the case by negotiating a cash settlement for the salary Thompson lost due to the layoff. She seeks $83,602 in lost salary plus the loss of benefits she would have received.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
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    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
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    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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