The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge
This case is before the court for ruling on various motions either seeking summary judgment or related to motions seeking summary judgment. This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, this court rules as follows: (1) the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (#100) filed by Plaintiff Deborah Nuzzi is DENIED; (2) the Motion to Strike (#104) filed by Defendants, St. George Community Consolidated School District No. 258, Richard Reyes, William Bodemer, Sharon Thiesen, Peter Dubravec, Mark Grasso, and Darrell Pendleton, is DENIED; (3) Defendants' Motion to Strike (#106) is GRANTED; (4) Defendants' Motion for Sanctions (#110) is DENIED; (5) Defendants' Rule 56(b) Motion for Summary Judgment (#116) on Plaintiffs' claims is GRANTED; (6) Defendants' Rule 56(a) Motion for Summary Judgment (#128) on their counterclaims against Plaintiffs is GRANTED; (7) Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (#135) and Motion for Leave to File (#157) are MOOT; (8) the Motions for Leave to File (#137, #171) and Motion for an Extension of Time to File (#145) filed by Plaintiffs, Deborah Nuzzi and Thomas Nuzzi, are GRANTED; and (9) Defendants' Motion to Strike and for Sanctions (#161) is GRANTED. Following these rulings, judgment is entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs on all claims and this case is terminated.
Plaintiffs are married to each other and are the former superintendent and former principal at St. George Community Consolidated School District (St. George).*fn2 St. George is a small school district which actually only has one school building. It provides elementary education, from pre-K through grade 8, to approximately 500 students. Thomas Nuzzi (Tom) was hired prior to the 2004-2005 school year and signed a four-year employment contract, which ran from June 10, 2004, to June 30, 2008. Tom's contract stated that the Board would issue a written evaluation of his performance prior to March 1 each year. During his first year as superintendent, Tom also served as principal. Tom impressed the Board with a variety of cost saving measures and new ideas. Tom recommended, and the Board approved, the hiring of Loan Nguyen as the new bookkeeper at a salary of $25,000. At the end of Nguyen's first year of employment, Tom was complimentary of her performance and recommended a $5,000 raise for her, which was approved by the Board.
The Board authorized the hiring of a principal for the 2005-2006 school year, and Janet Drews was hired at a salary of $68,000. During the 2005-2006 school year, St. George was taken off the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) watch list. Tom continued to be complimentary of Nguyen's job performance. Tom was originally supportive of Drews, but later began criticizing her performance and ultimately recommended that her contract be non-renewed. On Tom's recommendation, Drews was non-renewed and left before the end of the 2005-2006 school year with a financial settlement.
Larry Custer testified that, during the 2005-2006 school year, he worked as a bus driver and, for a stipend of $400, acted as lead bus driver. Custer testified that Tom told him he was the transportation director. He testified that his duties included designing new bus routes, drawing maps, contacting the parents of new students, conducting pre-trip inspections of the equipment, meeting with the other bus drivers, and making sure the bus service was running well.
Tom's secretary, Kathy Ohrt, stated in her affidavit that she compiled the 2005-2006 average daily attendance figures for St. George after the 2005-2006 school year. She stated that she followed directions given to her by the ISBE in compiling the figures. She stated that Tom told her he wanted to review the figures and then told her he had changed them. Tom testified at his deposition that he changed the numbers Ohrt had prepared. The 2005-2006 final average attendance figures were submitted electronically using Tom's ISBE user ID. Ohrt stated that she told Jeff Mullikin, who she said was the president of the Board at that time,*fn3 that she did not want her name associated with Tom's figures because she did not want to be blamed for completing a report that contained false information. The difference between the numbers Ohrt calculated and the numbers Tom submitted led to an increase in the amount of general state aid St. George was entitled to receive. Ohrt left her employment with St. George at the end of the 2005-2006 school year.
During the 2005-2006 school year, Deborah Nuzzi (Deborah) was working as a principal at Bourbonnais District #53 (Bourbonnais).*fn4 Deborah believed that she was subjected to sexual harassment and filed a lawsuit against Bourbonnais and one of the school board members. James DeZwaan was the superintendent at Bourbonnais at that time and was involved in the investigation of Deborah's sexual harassment allegations. Deborah applied for the principal position at St. George for the 2006-2007 school year. Tom was not involved in the interview process because his wife was a candidate. Following the interview process, the Board decided to hire Deborah as principal. Richard Reyes, who was Board president, negotiated her one-year contract directly with her. Following negotiations, Deborah entered into a written contract for the 2006-2007 school year which stated that her salary was $78,000. Deborah's contract term began on August 4, 2006 and ended June 30, 2007. The written contract stated that "[a]ny salary or other adjustment or modification made during the life of this Agreement shall be in the form of a written amendment and shall become a part of this contract...." No written amendments were made to the contract.
In August 2006, Nguyen received a $10,000 raise based upon Tom's recommendation. Nguyen testified that she had a meeting with Tom before she did the September 2006 payroll. She testified that she took notes so she had a record of Tom's instructions. The notes showed that Tom instructed her to pay Deborah the contract salary amount of $78,000, plus additional compensation of $3,000 for grants, plus an additional $9,500 for transportation, for a total of $90,500. Nguyen testified that the additional amounts were for "Early Childhood Grant" and "Transportation Director." The notes showed that Deborah was to receive 11 checks of $8,227.27. Copies of Deborah's paychecks, and the information provided with the checks, showed that her gross monthly earnings were $8,227.28, which was separated into three separate amounts of $272.73, $7,090.91, and $863.64. This court notes that 11 checks with gross earnings of $8,227.28 would result in total earnings of $90,500.08. In addition, $272.73 times 11 equals $3,000.03, which corresponds to the amount Nguyen testified Deborah was supposed to receive for grants, $7,090.91 times 11 equals $78,000.01, which corresponds to Deborah's contractual salary, and $863.64 times 11 equals $9,500.04, which corresponds to the amount Nguyen testified Deborah was supposed to receive as transportation director. Nguyen testified that Tom told her the payments needed to be in three separate accounts so the amount would seem lower and the Board would not pay attention. Nguyen also testified that Tom instructed her as to the accounts in the general ledger where she should account for each of the components of Deborah's compensation. Nguyen testified that she asked Tom why she was paying Deborah more than the salary stated in Deborah's contract and Tom told her to do as she was told.*fn5
Custer testified that his stipend was increased to $650 for the 2006-2007 school year for his additional transportation duties. Sometime after Deborah was hired as principal for the 2006-2007 school year, Custer was informed that she was the transportation director. At that time, St. George had six or seven buses. Custer testified that he continued to perform all of the duties he performed the previous school year regarding bus service for students. Custer testified that procedures did not change after Deborah became transportation director. Custer testified that Deborah did not participate in meetings with bus drivers or have any involvement with transportation issues other than the type of involvement the principal of the school had always had. Custer testified he could not think of anything Deborah did to discharge her job of transportation director. However, Diane Hurst, a secretary at St. George, stated in her affidavit that, "[w]hile working in the office at St. George School, [she] was a witness to Dr. Deborah Nuzzi working on tasks related to her duties as Transportation Director."
Nguyen testified that she became more and more concerned about Deborah's compensation above her contract amount and how the compensation was being included in the general ledger. In October 2006, Nguyen contacted Bill Bodemer, who was a member of the Board and served as treasurer. Bodemer testified that he met with Nguyen that same evening at her home. At the meeting, Nguyen told Bodemer that she believed Tom was overpaying Deborah and moving things from account to account illegitimately. Bodemer testified that he assured Nguyen that he would follow up on it. After the meeting, Bodemer spoke to Reyes and they decided the situation had to be confronted. Bodemer testified that, a few days later, he and Board member John Rietveld met with Tom. Bodemer testified that Tom was "personally offended" and explained that Deborah was not being overpaid because it was being covered by a grant. Bodemer testified that he was not satisfied with the explanation, because it still was an overpayment, but he and Reyes decided to monitor the situation and, if it was inappropriate, it would show at the end of the year. Reyes testified that he met with Tom and Tom told him "that the transportation stipend was coming from a transportation grant and that it was actually reducing her salary."
Nguyen also testified that, after Deborah became principal, there were problems with Tom and Deborah requesting reimbursement for the same expenses. She testified that she always caught it and did not actually pay for the same expenses twice. Nguyen testified that, in addition, Tom asked her to reimburse him from improper accounts to avoid detection by the Board. Nguyen testified that this included Tom's requests to be reimbursed from the IMPREST fund for large items such as furniture for his office, when the IMPREST fund was supposed to be a petty cash fund. Nguyen testified that an expense such as furniture should have been submitted to the Board for approval. She testified that Tom signed a check for reimbursement of his expenses without any other signatures. On October 12, 2006, after he met with Nguyen regarding her concerns, Bodemer sent an email to Nguyen stating that the "Superintendent has been informed that there are no circumstances that make it appropriate for him to be the sole endorser of any checks other than payroll checks."
Nguyen testified that, after Tom was confronted by her complaints, he began to treat her differently and was cold and distant with her. Tom also began to complain to Board members about Nguyen's job performance and incompetence. This was shortly after he had recommended a significant raise for Nguyen. At the November Board meeting, Tom told the Board that St. George would save money by outsourcing Nguyen's position. At its meeting on January 25, 2007, the Board accepted Tom's recommendation and approved outsourcing Nguyen's position. A letter dated January 31, 2007, informed Nguyen that her position would be eliminated, as of March 16, 2007, "and an outside agency will handle the major responsibilities of the bookkeeper." Nguyen's last day of work at St. George was February 7, 2007. After her position was eliminated, she decided to approach the Board at its February 22, 2007, meeting and formally accuse Tom of wrongdoing. Nguyen prepared seven packets, one for each Board member, which included a letter explaining her accusations and documents she believed supported her allegations against Tom. In her letter, Nguyen told the Board that Deborah was being paid amounts in excess of the salary stated in her employment agreement. Nguyen also spelled out the details of improper reimbursement requests.
Reyes testified that, after receiving Nguyen's documents, the Board felt obligated to conduct a formal investigation. The Board contacted its attorney, Joe Perkoski, who recommended Kelly Hayden of The Management Association. The Board contacted her in March 2007 and Hayden subsequently conducted an investigation into Nguyen's allegations. In addition, Nguyen contacted a lawyer after her layoff. Nguyen testified that, after she told her attorney of the improprieties at St. George, the attorney contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Illinois State Police. The FBI and the Illinois State Police began an investigation into Nguyen's allegations and interviewed Tom, Deborah, Board members and other witnesses. The report prepared following the investigation was forwarded to the Kankakee County State's Attorney's office. The State's Attorney's office ultimately decided not to initiate a criminal prosecution against Tom and Deborah.
In February 2007, during the investigation by the FBI and Illinois State Police, Custer was interviewed and was told that Deborah was receiving an additional $9,500 in salary for her position as transportation director. Custer testified that he complained more than once because he "was still doing all the work and she was getting most of the money." Custer testified that Deborah told him "that's why I have all these degrees and certificates" and that "you have to be an administrator to be a transportation director." At her deposition, Deborah testified, in relation to her duties as transportation director, that "a leader knows when their strengths are not as good as a person that they have delegated to." Custer testified that he "complained countless times about the transportation director position being a paid position of [$]9,500 versus a stipend all the years before." In April 2007, Custer had a meeting with Deborah and she raised various complaints about his performance. Custer testified that, in June 2007, Deborah told him words to the effect that he had "to clean up [his] act." Custer testified that Deborah also told him that the lead bus driver position was eliminated. Custer testified that he learned the same day that Michael Raef, the husband of Tom's secretary, Jayne Raef, had been hired as co-lead bus driver and would be paid $3.00 more per hour than Custer. Custer testified that he resigned from his position in August 2007 and did not come back for the 2007-2008 school year. In his affidavit, Michael Raef stated that there were problems with Custer's job performance during the 2006-2007 school year.
Marci Kolberg testified that she is a CPA and is a shareholder in the accounting firm of Smith, Koelling, Dykstra & Ohm. She testified that she had performed audits for St. George and, in February 2007, began performing monthly bookkeeping for St. George. Kolberg testified that she was not aware of any inappropriate or illegal activities by Plaintiffs. She testified that she believed Nguyen's work was deficient. Reyes testified that, contrary to Tom's prediction, the district paid more to Kolberg's firm for bookkeeping than Nguyen's salary and St. George did not save money by outsourcing bookkeeping services.*fn6
Deborah received her 11th paycheck on July 9, 2007. Kolberg testified that Tom gave her a figure, either by telling her what Deborah's total ending salary should be or by giving her an exact figure for the paycheck, and Deborah was paid $929.20 rather than $8,227.28, the amount of her other 10 paychecks that school year. Tom testified that he directed Kolberg as to the amount of Deborah's checks and signed all of the paychecks issued to employees of St. George. Kolberg testified that she had no idea what the amount of $929.20 was based on. With the 11th check reflecting gross earnings of $929.20, Deborah's gross earnings for the 2006-2007 school year were $83,202. Kolberg testified that she has no documents which explain how Tom came up with the total number of $83,202 as the salary amount to be paid to Deborah for the school year. Tom also testified that he had no documentation regarding Deborah's salary and payments for grant money and transportation director. He testified, however, that the Board orally agreed that she should be paid an unspecified additional amount of "grant money" and that this was an oral addition to her contract. Reyes testified that there was no discussion of Deborah being paid additional compensation to write grants in addition to her $78,000 salary. Reyes testified that his understanding is that grant writing is part of the expectation of a principal, within their salary. Reyes testified that Tom told him, when questions were raised about it, "that her salary was [$]78,000 and was not going to exceed 78." Kolberg testified that she has never seen any documentation which would support paying Deborah $5,202 over her contractual salary amount of $78,000 for grant writing. In her affidavit, Cathy Carter stated that she provides consulting services to St. George regarding grant writing and grant administration. She stated that she has training and eight years of experience in the area of grant writing and grant administration. She stated that her review of St. George's records showed that both Tom and Deborah failed to comply with various grant requirements during the time they were at St. George, including the requirement to document what grant funds were spent on.
Deborah's evaluation for the 2006-2007 school year was performed by Kay Pangle, the Regional Superintendent of Schools, because Tom could not perform an evaluation of his wife. Pangle gave Deborah a very positive evaluation and testified at her deposition that she found Deborah "excellent in all areas." Pangle also testified that she received e-mails from both Tom and Deborah "asking advice." Pangle testified that the relationship was "very professional."
Deborah contract was renewed for the 2007-2008 school year. Deborah's second contract, effective July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, provided for a salary of $81,900 and included a provision which stated:
In addition to the annual salary stated in paragraph A.2 of this Agreement, the principal may be entitled to Transportation director stipend upon fulfilling the job description responsibilities and proceeds received for grant writing when the Principal has performed the service of grant writing, is successful in obtaining a grant for the District and the grant provides compensation to the grant-writer.
Reyes testified that the Board met with Deborah in closed session to review her contract for the 2007-2008 school year. Reyes testified that Deborah told the Board that Pangle wanted to review the contract before she signed it. Reyes testified that the Board concluded it was a conflict of interest for Pangle to review Deborah's contract on Deborah's behalf and also act as Deborah's evaluator. Board members Peter Dubravec and Mark Grosso also testified that the Board determined that Pangle should not evaluate Deborah because of their relationship. Pangle testified that she was notified in November 2007 that she would not be performing the evaluation of Deborah's performance for the 2007-2008 school year.
Reyes testified that the Board conducted Tom's evaluation for the 2006-2007 school year in June 2007. Board member Sharon Thiesen, who was the secretary of the Board, testified that the composite score on the evaluation was about a three on the basis of a one to five scale. Tom disagreed with the evaluation. Reyes testified that, at the meeting regarding Tom's evaluation, Tom did not accept feedback and resisted it. Reyes testified that this was "unacceptable."
Kelly Hayden's report was released to the Board sometime prior to the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.*fn7 In her report, Hayden stated that she investigated the alleged overpayment of Deborah and the alleged inappropriate reimbursement of expenses to Tom. Hayden concluded that Deborah had been overpaid. Hayden stated that, while Deborah produced evidence of grants she had written and evidence that the grants authorized her to receive a portion for administrator duties, there was "no evidence that the Board authorized [Deborah] to perform these duties or to receive payment to perform these duties for the District." Hayden recommended that Deborah be ordered to repay the overpayment of salary. Hayden also recommended that Tom be reprimanded. She stated, "[a]s the leader of the District (and given his personal relationship with [Deborah]), it is incumbent upon [him] to ensure that ethical guidelines are adhered to, particularly in matters involving finances."
Hayden also concluded that there were problems with reimbursement requests. She noted that it was clear that the superintendent was not to be the sole endorser of any checks other than payroll checks. She noted that Tom was either "unaware of or chose to disregard this policy" and stated in his interview that he did have the ability to sign checks by himself if he wanted to. She further noted that both Tom and Deborah frequently discussed the concept of "checks and balances" and relied on this as a defense to the inappropriate submission or "double" submission of reimbursement requests. Hayden stated:
However, if the superintendent can sign and approve expense checks by himself or direct his subordinates to approve these checks, then the checks and balances system will fail. The investigator recommends that in the future, the superintendent be required to submit all expenses for approval to the Board of Education prior to reimbursement and that he be clearly directed not to be the sole endorser of any checks, payroll or otherwise in the District.
In her discussion of "double" requests for reimbursement, Hayden stated that, not only did Tom and Deborah's stories not always match, but "they are simply not credible given the interviews that this investigator conducted." Hayden further stated that "while it does not appear that reimbursements were improperly paid to [Deborah] or [Tom], it does appear they were improperly submitted." She recommended that they should be disciplined "concerning their past submission of inappropriate expenses and warned that future violations could result in further discipline."
At the August 25, 2007, Board meeting, the Board decided to hire an auditor, Russell Leigh, to conduct a full audit of the District's finances. Several Board members testified that Tom had not been able to provide adequate financial information, which led to concerns among Board members. Thiesen testified that there was an ongoing problem with getting financial reports in a format which could be read and understood. Grosso testified that it took a long time for Tom to address the Board's concerns about financial reports. Russell Leigh's audit showed that there were some problems with St. George's financial statements and financial procedures. Reyes testified that the findings in the Russell Leigh report raised the Board's level of concern about Tom's performance and "confirmed the belief that he was not competent to perform his duties as a superintendent with respect to the finances and procedures that support the finances of the District."
At the September 2007 Board meeting, Tom advised the Board that a keycard security system had been installed. The new system rendered the Board members' old keys useless and cut off their access to the school building when the building was closed. The Board asked Tom to provide Board members with key cards so they could get into the building to access documents regarding Board meetings. Tom refused and told the Board that there were issues regarding the privacy of school records as well as other concerns. Reyes and Thiesen both testified that student records were under lock and key and none of the Board members had keys to those file cabinets. Thiesen testified that the Board members "wanted to get access to get information, so that we could do the jobs that we were elected to do." Reyes and Thiesen testified that the Board agreed to move the District files to a janitor's closet away from the student records in order to alleviate Tom's concerns about confidentiality. Grosso testified that the Board made it clear to Tom that the Board members just wanted access to their own mailboxes so that the request was made within the confines of the privacy laws affecting students. Tom still resisted the request for key cards for Board members.
During this time, the Board was discussing Tom's performance during executive sessions, which are closed to the public. Tom was upset about this and began complaining that the Board was violating the Open Meetings Act. Tom believed that the Board discussed certain subjects in closed session that should have been covered in open session, including discussions of the Board members' requests for key cards. Tom insisted that issuing a key card to each Board member constituted a matter of "policy" to be decided by the Board on a full vote in open session. Reyes testified that the Board told Tom in executive session that his refusal to provide them access to the building was insubordination. Bodemer testified that personnel matters must be discussed in executive session because of privacy issues. This is a specific exception to the Open Meetings Act. The Board members who gave deposition testimony all agreed that, before going into executive session, the statutory section setting out the exception was cited as the reason for the executive session. The Board members also testified that they always reconvened in open session before taking any Board action and before adjourning the meeting. Sometimes it was late at night and no one else was present when the meeting was adjourned.
Bodemer testified that Tom believed the Board had to state specific topics they would be talking about in closed session. On October 23, 2007, Tom sent an e-mail to St. George's counsel asking for clarification regarding what must be included on the Board meeting agenda regarding the reason for executive session. Perkoski responded to Tom's inquiry by e-mail and stated:
There are two different standards with respect to closed session - one which pertains to what must be on the agenda and one which must be in a motion to move into closed session. With respect to the agenda, the only thing you have to say is that there will be a closed session -nothing more is required though some boards will identify the statutory cite or statutory language justifying the closed session. With respect to the motion made verbally at the meeting, the statutory reason must be in the motion - to avoid confusion we recommend that the person making the motion, either refer to the statutory cite or read the statutory exception language - or both. Beyond that, the specific discussion topic need not be on the agenda or in the motion. Only action items need to be listed with sufficient specificity.
Tom testified at his deposition that he continued to believe there should be some description of the topic of the closed session on the agenda and in the motion prior to going into closed session.
There was also an ongoing dispute between Tom and the Board regarding Tom's request that the Board negotiate a new contract for him because his four-year contract expired on June 30, 2008. On at least one occasion, Tom put the issue of negotiating his new contract on the agenda for a Board meeting. On October 22, 2007, Reyes sent Tom an e-mail telling him to remove that agenda item because "there is nothing to discuss until we understand the investigation results." Reyes testified that the Board did not want to discuss a new contract for Tom until after the Board had time to carefully review the investigation and audit results. Reyes also testified that the Board had lost confidence in Tom during that time period. Grosso testified that, by November or December of 2007, there was a pretty strong feeling that "it wasn't going to work" and the Board would not be renewing Tom's contract. David Hanson, who was on the Board a short time during this time period, testified that it looked to him like the Board was not going to renew Tom's contract.
On December 17, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint (#1) against Defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the Open Meetings Act and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Prior to the Board's meeting on January 7, 2008, Tom and the Board agreed that Tom should go on paid administrative leave. Dubravec testified that the Board determined that Tom should go on administrative leave because the Board had serious concerns about Tom's performance. The Board had contacted DeZwaan, who was retired from Bourbonnais, about acting as interim superintendent. The January 7, 2008, Board meeting was held early in the morning. Deborah testified that she observed DeZwaan during the meeting. Deborah testified that she had a "panic attack" after seeing him because of the problems she had experienced at Bourbonnais. Deborah testified that she left the school following the meeting.
On January 7, 2008, Reyes sent Tom a letter regarding his administrative leave. In the letter, Reyes stated, "[s]hould you need access to the school building at any time, please first contact Mr. DeZwaan to arrange for such access." On January 8, 2008, Deborah's doctor signed a letter which stated that Deborah was suffering from an "overwhelming stress reaction" and that she should not return to the workplace for at least four weeks. On January 10, 2008, DeZwaan sent Deborah a letter stating that he was in receipt of her physician's notification of her request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). DeZwaan asked her to have her physician complete an enclosed Certification of Health Care Provider.
Diane Hurst stated in her affidavit that, on January 14, 2008, she was instructed to treat Tom and Deborah as trespassers if she saw them on the property and should call law enforcement to have them removed. Bodemer stated in his affidavit that the "school has a practice of requiring all visitors to the building to come through the front door, check in with the office, and obtain authorization before being granted access to the school." Bodemer stated that, after Tom went on administrative leave and Deborah went on medical leave, staff at St. George were informed that Tom and Deborah had to follow the procedure that any visitor to the school had to follow. Bodemer stated that staff was informed that if either Tom or Deborah "did not follow proper check-in procedures the staff was to react as if they were any other unauthorized person attempting to access the building in an unauthorized manner." Thiesen testified that her understanding was that Tom and Deborah were to be treated the same as any other unauthorized person if they came to the school premises.
The Board decided not to renew Tom's contract and notified him by letter dated January 31, 2008. Board member Darrell Pendleton testified that Tom's contract was not renewed because of "long-standing problems." Reyes testified that the Board had a laundry list of reasons not to renew Tom's contract. Tom was paid through the end of his contract term, June 30, 2008. Kolberg testified that Tom was paid everything he was owed. Documentation prepared by Kolberg showed that Tom was paid his salary and was also paid for vacation days.
While Deborah was on medical leave, DeZwaan performed her evaluation. State law required that her evaluation be completed by February 1. DeZwaan has the qualifications necessary to perform the evaluation of a principal. DeZwaan sent Deborah a letter, dated January 18, 2008, informing her that her evaluation needed to be completed by February 1 and asking her to schedule a time to meet with him. In his letter, DeZwaan stated "[i]f you decide not to meet with me I will proceed to complete the evaluation instrument in accordance with The Illinois School Code and your employment contract with the St. George School District." Deborah testified that she believes she did not receive this letter until after her evaluation was already completed.
According to St. George's records, Deborah's sick and vacation time ran out on February 15, 2008, but St. George paid her until February 29, 2008. The unpaid part of her 12-week leave under the FMLA began on that date. On February 27, 2008, St. George's attorneys sent Deborah a letter stating that her paid leave would be exhausted as of February 29, 2008. The letter also informed her that, prior to her return from her current leave, she would be required to provide St. George with a return to work certification from her physician. Letters from Deborah's doctors stated that she continued to be unable to return to work for the remainder of the school year.
Based in part on deficiencies noted in DeZwaan's evaluation, the Board decided not to renew Deborah's contract. On April 3, 2008, Deborah was sent a notice of the non-renewal of her contract. This was sent more than 45 days before the end of the school year, as required by the School Code.
In 2009, the State of Illinois conducted an audit of the 2005-2006 general state submission and ordered St. George to reimburse the State over $300,000 for over-counting both attendance and busing figures and for not being able to support the submissions with any documentary evidence. The numbers for the 2005-2006 school year that resulted in this audit had been submitted electronically by Tom after he changed the numbers prepared by Ohrt. St. George attempted to reconstruct the attendance records from the 2005-2006 school ...