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.

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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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