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Julie Mcardle v. Peoria School District No. 150

June 7, 2011

JULIE MCARDLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PEORIA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 150, KEN HINTON, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, THOMAS BRODERICK, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, MARY DAVIS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

E-FILED Tuesday, 07 June, 2011 03:56:12 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court,

ILCD

ORDER

Now before the Court are Defendant Mary Davis' ("Davis") Motion for Summary Judgment [#57] and Defendants Ken Hinton, Thomas Broderick, and Peoria School District No. 150's ("Individual Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment [#58]. For the reasons set forth below, Davis' Motion for Summary Judgment [#57] is GRANTED. Individual Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#58] is GRANTED. Plaintiff's request to voluntarily dismiss its claims against Ken Hinton and Thomas Broderick is accepted, and Ken Hinton and Thomas Broderick are terminated as parties. Plaintiff's request to withdraw her claim under the Whistleblower Act is also accepted, and this claim will be stricken.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as one of Plaintiff's claims arises under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims for breach of contract, tortious interference with a contract, and claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

BACKGROUND

On August 4, 2008, Plaintiff Julie McArdle ("McArdle") was hired by Peoria School District 150 ("District 150") as the principal of Lindbergh Middle School. McArdle's employment contract covered the period from July 1, 2008 until June 31, 2010 and contained a provision allowing for early termination by either party after one year of McArdle's employment. At this time, Kenneth Hinton ("Hinton") was the superintendent, Herschel Hannah ("Hannah") was the assistant superintendent, and Mary Davis ("Davis") was the Academic Officer of District 150 and previous principal of Lindbergh Middle School ("Lindbergh"). Thomas Broderick ("Broderick") was the vice president of the Board of Education for District 150. Davis was McArdle's immediate supervisor. Davis reported to Hannah; Hannah reported to Hinton; and Hinton reported to the Board of Education for District 150.

Beginning in October of 2008, Davis contacted McArdle regarding complaints filed against McArdle by parents. Hinton also recieved complaints against McArdle filed by the Parent Teacher Organization ("PTO") and met with PTO President Tania Hoerr ("Hoerr") about difficulties with McArdle. Also during this time, members of the Board also received parent complaints about McArdle's conduct and personality. Throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, Hinton became concerned with the situation at Lindbergh due to an allegedly divided staff and parent network. Hinton brought the situation to the attention of the Board of Education on April 6, 2009. On April 21, 2009, Broderick contacted McArdle on behalf of the Board of Education to discuss early termination. On April 27, 2009, the Board of Education conducted a special meeting and voted 4-1 to terminate McArdle's employment effective June 30, 2009. In terminating her employment, the Board exercised the no-cause buy-out provision of McArdle's contract, and subsequently payed McArdle liquidated damages pursuant to this contract provision.

During her employment as principal at Lindbergh, McArdle discovered a number of financial and administrative irregularities attributable to Davis during Davis' tenure as principal of Lindbergh. These irregularities allegedly included: (1) a student teacher who agreed to work without pay was being paid a teacher's aide salary; (2) a private counselor was charging private fees contrary to District 150's obligation to provide such services for free as a part of a public education; (3) addresses were falsified to show students living within District 150's boundaries when they did not physically live within those boundaries; and (4) financial discrepancies regarding the Student Activities Funds, which are the only funds that the Lindbergh Principal handles. Davis has since been indicted in the Circuit Court of Peoria County, Illinois on eight counts of felony theft and eight counts of felony official misconduct related to her use of the Student Activities Fund and other miscellaneous personnel issues while principal for Lindbergh.

As early as October of 2008, McArdle attempted to discuss the financial discrepancies with Davis, her current superior and previous Lindbergh principal. Davis responded in December, telling McArdle that the Lindbergh financial books had already been audited. In January of 2009, Davis began allegedly attempting to discredit McArdle in her reports to Hinton, her evaluations of McArdle, and her dealings with the PTO and other parents. McArdle continued to discover inconsistencies in the Student Activities Fund. After McArdle discovered the financial irregularities in the Student Activities Fund, and after she learned that the Board intended to terminate her contract, McArdle sought advice of counsel on April 23, 2009. On April 24, 2009, McArdle emailed Hinton and Broderick to outline the theft and other incidents of purported official misconduct. McArdle also filed a police report with the Peoria Police on April 24, 2009. When Hinton and Davis approached the Board of Education on April 27, 2009, these charges had been filed, and Hinton, Broderick, and Davis were aware of them.

On December 23, 2009, McArdle filed an Amended Complaint alleging a federal claim under Section 1983 for deprivation of her First Amendment rights against all named Defendants. McArdle also alleged a state law breach of contract claim and a claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act against the District. Finally, McArdle alleged a state law tortious interference with contract claim against Defendant Mary Davis. All Defendants now seek summary judgment on these claims. Plaintiff, in her Response to the District's Motion for Summary Judgment [#68], seeks to voluntarily dismiss her claims against Ken Hinton and Thomas Broderick and her claim under the Whistleblower Act. In granting this voluntary dismissal, the Court will not consider the arguments made in Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#58] on these claims, and the Court held oral arguments on the Motion ...


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