An attorney for a former Lawrence public schools employee alleges that his client was wrongfully terminated in October 2011 for reporting that a fellow employee was renting out district video projectors to several Lawrence area bars.
“We are claiming that her termination was definitely done in direct retaliation for her reporting it,” said attorney Gary Laughlin, who is representing Barbara Wolf, a Topeka resident and former school district technician.
Pete Curran, a Lawrence attorney who represents the school district, denied the claims in the lawsuit but said he could not comment on specific allegations.
“We don’t think the claim has merit, and the district’s insurance carrier will be defending against it,” Curran said.
The lawsuit filed July 16 in Douglas County District Court does not name the employee who Wolf alleged was responsible for the missing projectors or provide other details about the allegations. But Laughlin divulged more details about those claims Thursday in an interview with the Journal-World and alleged the other unnamed district employee took projectors out of schools without permission and installed them in area bars while charging rent. The bar owners were not aware the projectors were not the man’s property.
“There were several of them involved in it, and he was making money on them,” Laughlin said.
According to the lawsuit and a district personnel report, Wolf lost her position with the school district in October 2011.
Julie Boyle, a Lawrence public schools spokeswoman, said district officials were unable to comment on pending litigation. According to the district, Wolf worked as a custodian in the district for 12 years before she became a support technician in January 2009.
Laughlin also alleged in the interview that within a week after Wolf spoke to her supervisors, the district’s projectors “magically showed up” at the district’s offices. He also said he thought the unnamed employee Wolf accused was later terminated from his position, but Laughlin said more information would be revealed during the discovery phase of the lawsuit.
Wolf is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, and Laughlin said she remained unemployed.
“What we really wanted was for them to give her her job back after they found out that her claims were true, and they refused to give her her job back,” he said.
District Judge Paula Martin has not scheduled any hearings in the case.