Ex-superintendent's lawsuit with Willow Run schools mostly resolved in recent court ruling
A legal battle between former Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson, the Willow Run Board of Education and former board President Sheri Washington is coming to a close.
On March 14, Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Shelton issued a ruling on the most recent lawsuit of the ongoing saga.
Hope-Jackson filed a lawsuit on Oct. 22, 2012, asking the court to vacate an arbitration award made in favor of the Willow Run school district and to reopen her original lawsuit, which was filed in June 2010 but dismissed in March 2011 in order for Hope-Jackson to pursue her claims in arbitration.
The claims included allegations of breach of employee contract, verbal assault, retaliation, misconduct, misappropriation of funds, a spurned lesbian advance, harassment and more.
Arbitration is a private dispute resolution mechanism, in which an arbitrator hears the evidence of the claims and makes a binding decision. The arbitrator's job is to apply a standard of review to the facts of the case.
Shelton upheld the majority of the arbitrator's rulings. However, he vacated one decision pertaining to a claim of defamation of character that Hope-Jackson was not allowed to add against Washington during the original arbitration proceedings.
Shelton ordered the defamation claim be remanded to arbitrator Fred M. Mester for a ruling. Mester will hear arguments on the claim from both sides and make a decision based on the merits of the claim.
No times or dates have been set yet for the continued arbitration.
During the original arbitration, Mester ruled Hope-Jackson did not file the defamation claim against Washington on time and therefore dismissed the claim. The claim was regarding posts published about Hope-Jackson on the website WillowRunWatchdogs.org.
This website frequently posted entries bashing Hope-Jackson under the anonymous pen names of "Administrator" and "Staff Writer." It came out during the arbitration proceedings that Washington was the administrator of that site. The site has since been shut down.
Washington first lied under oath about her affiliation with the blog during the arbitration, for which she was held in contempt of order on April 20, 2012, and was ordered to pay Hope-Jackson $12,500 in sanctions, as well as the former superintendent's reasonable attorney fees and arbitration fees.
Despite ruling that Washington lied under oath, the arbitrator also ruled Hope-Jackson should have "somehow have filed a claim against Washington at the time, even though nobody knew who the administrator of the website was" until later, Segars said Tuesday.
In his Oct. 1 arbitration award, Mester did not agree with the majority of the school board's reasons for firing Hope-Jackson, court documents show, but ruled in favor of the district in the end. He found the board's decision to terminate Hope-Jackson was not retaliatory in nature and was not arbitrary and capricious.
Segar argued that typically in employment disputes, the standard of review that is used is the "just cause" standard, also known as the "good cause" standard. He said in a previous interview with AnnArbor.com, he has never seen the "arbitrary and capricious" standard applied to an employment dispute.
Shelton upheld the arbitrator's arbitrary and capricious ruling with his March 14 court order.