United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
DR. MARY ANN MANOS, Plaintiff,
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF VILLA GROVE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT #302, JIM CLARK, JIM KESTNER, CAROL EZELL, KERRY CHEELY, CASSANDRA EVERSOLE-GUNTER, CHARLES MITSDARFER, and TIMOTHY SPANNAGEL, Defendants.
MYERSCOUGH, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
2015, Defendant Board of Education of Villa Grove Community
Unit School District #302, comprised of Defendants Jim Clark,
Jim Kestner, Carol Ezell, Kerry Cheely, Cassandra
Eversole-Gunter, Charles Mitsdarfer, and Timothy Spannagel,
terminated Plaintiff Dr. Mary Ann Manos from her position as
Superintendent. Plaintiff filed suit alleging Defendants
deprived her of a property interest in her employment and a
liberty interest in her occupation in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and
discriminated against her because of her gender in violation
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Counts I, II,
and VII). Plaintiff also brought state law claims for breach
of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
defamation per se, and trespass to chattels (Counts III, IV,
V, and VI).
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on the property and liberty
interest claims, Counts I and II. Defendants seek summary
judgment on all claims.
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (d/e 38) is DENIED.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 39) is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Genuine issues of
material fact preclude summary judgment on Counts I, II, III,
and VI. The Court finds, however, that the individual
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Counts I and
II. Defendants are awarded summary judgment on Counts IV, V,
2012, the Villa Grove Community Unit School District #302
hired Plaintiff to serve as Superintendent under a three-year
employment contract (Contract) beginning July 1, 2013 through
June 30, 2016. Paragraph 11 of the Contract provided the
following regarding discharge:
11. Discharge For Cause. Throughout the term
of this Contract, the Superintendent shall be subject to
discharge for just cause provided, however, the Board shall
not arbitrarily or capriciously call for dismissal and the
Superintendent shall have the right to service of written
charges, notice of hearing and a hearing before the Board. If
the Superintendent chooses to be accompanied by counsel at
such hearing, the Superintendent shall pay all such personal
expenses. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of
this Contract shall also be sufficient cause for purposes of
discharge as provided in this Contract.
began her term as Superintendent on July 1, 2013. Plaintiff
also served as the high school principal for the 2013-2014
school year for additional pay.
salary as Superintendent was $115, 000 per year, which was
less than her predecessor, Dr. Steven Poznic, earned. The
parties do not indicate how much Dr. Poznic earned. The
parties agree, however, that Dr. Poznic was a longstanding
District employee who received a retirement incentive that
increased his salary prior to retirement. The interim
Superintendent through June 2017, Mr. Norm Tracy, who was
hired after Plaintiff's termination, earned $70, 000 per
early 2014, the Board evaluated Plaintiff's performance
to date, and the evaluations were universally positive. In
March 2014, the District approved the extension of
Plaintiff's contract by one year, through June 30, 2017.
assert, and Plaintiff disputes, that Board members began to
hear complaints from staff about the extension of
Plaintiff's contract. Board Member Jim Clark commenced an
investigation regarding the allegations. Clark interviewed
several staff members and purportedly received negative
feedback about Plaintiff.
2014, Clark shared his findings with the Board. At a special
Board meeting on July 10, 2014, the Board provided Plaintiff
with a letter outlining the Board's concerns. The
concerns included staff complaints about Plaintiff, as well
as five instances when the Board felt misled by Plaintiff.
(Some of these concerns are the same as the ones raised in
support of Plaintiff's termination.) The letter included
a section titled, “Board Expectations, ” that
outlined the Board's expectations for Plaintiff and
included changes in how she should handle matters. In
response, Plaintiff stated that the issues were not her
issues but rather blamed the District's staff. She also
issued a written rebuttal and told the Board that she
believed the letter violated Board policies. Plaintiff was
not provided with the names of the individuals who were
making allegations against her.
October 2014, the district bookkeeper, Shirley Badman, and
the assistant bookkeeper, Chris Mayhall, met with Board
President Steve Douglas and Board member Clark about concerns
they had about the District's finances, morale in the
District, and whether Plaintiff was following auditor
procedures. In December 2014, more individuals purportedly
spoke to Board members about additional concerns with
February 2015, Clark met with Plaintiff to share the concerns
staff members were raising, although Plaintiff asserts that
Clark did not address any specific complaints with Plaintiff.
Defendants contend that Board members continued to receive
complaints about Plaintiff from staff and parents.
April 2015, Plaintiff's Contract was amended to provide
Plaintiff with five additional vacation days per year. The
remaining terms of the Contract remained in full force and
4, 2015, Clark became President of the School Board,
replacing outgoing President, Steve Douglas. On or about June
18, 2015, Clark scheduled a closed-session meeting for June
23, 2015 and directed Plaintiff to attend. According to
Plaintiff, Clark did not advise Plaintiff of the topic of the
meeting. Plaintiff told Clark she could not attend because
she had outpatient surgery scheduled for June 22, 2015.
23, 2015, Clark emailed Plaintiff a letter stating that Clark
would, at that evening's special Board meeting,
“recommend to the Board of Education that [Plaintiff]
be dismissed as Superintendent . . . and for approval of
[his] decision to place [Plaintiff] on paid suspension
pending a formal dismissal hearing.” By way of the
letter, Clark placed Plaintiff on suspension with pay while
the Board considered her dismissal. Clark directed Plaintiff
to turn over all District property, remain off school
property, have no contact with District employees, and not
discuss her employment status or any District matter with any
staff member or member of the public.
attached to the letter a Bill of Particulars containing 33
allegations (really 32 allegations because there is no number
3) against Plaintiff. The Bill of Particulars included
allegations that Plaintiff failed to accurately prepare the
annual budget and was fiscally irresponsible regarding
several items, including the purchase of weight lifting
equipment, air conditioning improvements, Rural Education
Achievement Grant Expenditures, and Qualified Zone Academy
letter, Clark stated that he intended to ask the Board to
adopt the charges as the basis of Plaintiff's suspension
with pay and to set the matter for a formal dismissal hearing
before the Board. The letter also advised Plaintiff that she
“may appear at the Board of Education to answer the
charges against [her] and may have counsel present. At the
hearing, the Board of Education shall consider [Clark's]
recommendation to dismiss [Plaintiff] from [her] position of
note that Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she
responded to the Bill of Particulars. The Court was unable to
find the response in the summary judgment record. Plaintiff
states, in her Reply (d/e 47), that there is no evidence that
Plaintiff's attorney submitted a response to the Board or
to Clark or that the Board considered any such response by
Plaintiff during the hearing.
attorney, Gerald Smith, attended the June 23, 2015 special
meeting. At the meeting, the Board discussed concerns about
the District's finances and Plaintiff's relationship
with the Board and staff. The Board decided to proceed with
the suspension of Plaintiff with pay and a hearing to
determine if she should remain employed as Superintendent.
During the closed session of the hearing, the Board Secretary
wrote that the new superintendent's start date would be
“the day after [Plaintiff] is terminated.”
25, 2015, Smith notified the attorney for the School Board,
Christopher Miller, that many of the allegations in the Bill
of Particulars were vague and lacked sufficient detail to
provide a defense. Smith also stated that he would request a
continuance at the conclusion of the Board's evidence in
order to prepare Plaintiff's response and/or defense to
each allegation presented.
discharge hearing commenced on July 13, 2013. Immediately
prior to the hearing, Plaintiff and her attorney received 27
separate exhibits the Board's attorney planned to present
during the hearing, which amounted to over 112 pages of
beginning of the hearing, Clark read a statement that
Plaintiff would be provided an opportunity to present
evidence and all witnesses on her behalf following the
presentation of the Board's evidence:
Before the Board can determine whether Mary Ann Manos has, in
fact, engaged in conduct that constitutes just cause to
terminate her employment contract, it must hear the evidence.
This hearing is designed to protect her due process rights
regarding the presentation of that evidence.
* * *
To begin these proceedings, Mr. Miller will present the
charges against Mary Ann Manos and then present information
and evidence supporting those charges in the form of written
documents and the testimony of witnesses. The employee will
be given an opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses
presented and to challenge any of the written evidence
Following the presentation of just cause for dismissal, the
employee will have an opportunity to make a case against such
recommended action. The employee may present evidence of her
own, oral or written, and may call witnesses to testify. The
Board will be given an opportunity to cross-examine any
witnesses presented by the employee and to challenge any of
the written evidence entered.
early in the proceedings Plaintiff's attorney, Smith,
objected to the Board's attorney calling witnesses about
whom Plaintiff and Smith knew nothing. Smith also objected to
the evidence not being disclosed until immediately prior to
the Board's attorney, spent over six hours presenting 12
witnesses, including Clark, and elicited testimony from all
of the members of the Board. Plaintiff asserts, but
Defendants dispute, that most of the Board's evidence
consisted of evidence Plaintiff was learning for the first
time. Plaintiff's attorney, Mr. Smith, cross-examined the
Board's attorney concluded the presentation of evidence
at approximately 12:30 a.m. on July 14, 2015. The following
MR. MILLER: So, I have got no closing statement; we will rest
on the testimony and the exhibits. The Board is going to
deliberate. Do you have anything else to present?
MR. SMITH: Well, as a closing statement, I don't think
any of the evidence that was presented here really indicates
that there was any intent on her part to deceive or defraud.
making a closing statement, Mr. Smith then stated:
MR. SMITH: * * * The fact that we didn't get access to
any of this information until tonight as it was being
presented, we didn't have an opportunity to prepare an
accurate or an adequate defense, so there are due process
issues that will be addressed at a later time, too. We
respect your time and we won't hang on any longer. We
will let you deliberate. I bet there's no one downstairs
anymore, but we will be downstairs.
MR. MILLER: Thank you.
MR. CLARK: Thank you.
MR. SMITH: There is one thing. I would like to request from
the Board a continuation or a continuance so that we can have
adequate time to digest this and to prepare a defense.
MR. MILLER: Until when?
MR. SMITH: One week would be fine.
MR. MILLER: We will discuss it. Well, I want on the record,
what is it that you lack?
MR. SMITH: We did not have any time-
MR. MILLER: Well, we understand that, but how did that
prevent you from ...