Archive for Monday, July 23, 2012

Wrongful firing case filed against school district

District denies employee was let go for whistle-blowing

July 23, 2012


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.


bornon7 5 years, 9 months ago

I still wonder where all those lap tops that are replaced go....I know the district said where they SHOULD go, but I wonder....who over sees those? The projection sheriff that is mentioned in this article? Does anyone really know?

a34123h9038419 5 years, 9 months ago

They are typically sold by the palette to a recycling program. At least that is what they did when I worked there. Consumer is right they are generally sold for pennies on the dollar, but that is better than having them end up in a dumpster.

Gary Denning 5 years, 9 months ago

Ever try to unload a couple hundred 4-5 year old laptops? They aren't exactly high demand items.

Dan Alexander 5 years, 9 months ago

Good luck Barb, I know all you ever wanted was to be back in your schools with the teachers and students.

Take notice how this plays out admins, you cannot be above the laws and at the same time treat your "peons" as disposable forever without repercussions.

I hope Barb wins so that the board is finally forced to take a look at the ESDC's "fat cats". Enjoy the "palace" while you can folks. It just may be a sinking ship.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 9 months ago

If I were in administration for the USD IT department, I'd be dusting off my resume right about now.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 9 months ago

The projector issue has been going on for probably 6 years. The problem starts at the top. I guarantee you the last 3 directors of IT in the school district knew about this problem. Should I name names? We always joked that the "projector bandit" must have some serious dirt on somebody high up because he was untouchable.

They fired the employee that had the guts to stand up, not the one who was stealing equipment that was bought with public funds. I worked as a technician in the IT department and had the honor of working with Barb while she was still a custodian. She worked hard to learn the IT trade and got a job in the within the district (she filled my position when I left if my memory serves me).

She was always hard-working, friendly, and very good-natured. She had 12 years of employment history in the district and was fired for doing the right thing. Shame on all of them. This is a management and director-level problem, not an employee problem. The IT employees are enabled to do whatever they please with inventory, information and data that should be completely confidential. I hope this lawsuit blows the lid off that place.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 9 months ago

Hey, does anyone remember this Sound Off from a few weeks back?

Is anyone from the press ever going to look into all of this crazy crap happening in our public schools? For chrissakes try talking to somebody other than the PR representative from the school. They're going to give you the canned, stale answers that we always get.

Journalists, please DEMAND ANSWERS!

NotRelated 5 years, 9 months ago

Just had to add my two cents, the beauty is I don't think an ex employee or current employee sent in that sound off, but maybe it was ol Dr Doll himself??? It was a doozey who ever wrote it! I want to hug the guy (or lady) who decided to call or write in. I wish more people would question this public institution.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 9 months ago

Believe it or not it wasn't anyone from within the USD 497 IT - building technician circle. We have all stayed pretty close. We asked around and nobody could figure out who submitted it.

jmadison 5 years, 9 months ago

Do whistleblower protection laws apply to local government, or is this another law from which the government exempts itself?

kthxbi 5 years, 8 months ago

I call BS. None of these supposed shenanigans could have taken place, given the district's state of the art inventory system. Also, why am I always late to the party?

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