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Posted on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

Ex-superintendent's lawsuit with Willow Run schools mostly resolved in recent court ruling

By Danielle Arndt

DORIS_HOPE_JACKSON 1-1 LON.JPG

A legal dispute involving former Willow Run Superintendent Doris Hope-Jackson has been going on since June 2010.

Previous coverage:

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.

willowrunwatchdog.jpg

A screenshot of the website WillowRunWatchdogs.org from April 24, 2010. The website's ramblings on ex-Superintendnet Doris Hope-Jackson are the subject of a defamatory claim headed back to arbitration in the ongoing lawsuit.

From screenshots.com

"It's nearing the end," Hope-Jackson's attorney Darryl Segars said Tuesday of the nearly three-year dispute. "Hopefully within the next few months it'll all be over. … We are certain that justice will prevail and that the arbitrator will make a fair and just decision."

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.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

Comments

Big Dog

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

There we go again. Try to reward a person of authority for bringing down a school district. Yes, investigate her current job and see if they are happy with her performance. Investigate further about her previous lawsuits and other litigation against former employers. Investigate her and you will find our President has history with her.

beardown

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

I just read an article about her settlement from one of her jobs in the chicagoland area, an area that makes Detroit look like a success story. She worked 7 whole months and received a "$165,000 cash buyout, the remainder of her $120,000 annual salary through June 30, 2003, a title to a 2003 Mercedes-Benz, payment for 25 vacation days, attorneys fees, and medical insurance coverage through June 30, 2004, or until she obtains full-time employment." Why work well when you can just due a bad job, insult most everyone, then claim you were wronged and sue, drag the school through the mud, and get a six figure settlement. She took hundreds of thousands of dollars from schools that can't even afford basic supplies, teachers, and, in some places, electricity. But she made sure she got paid...she always gets paid.

Life in Ypsi

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

Imagine if the rest of us had the luxury to do a poor job and then sue when we were fired for it. Hope-Jackson is a disgrace. Parents like myself believed in her and to see this conduct continuing is sickening. False allegations of lesbian advances? Give me a break! Anything to milk the little we had left in this district. AnnArbor.com please investigate what she is doing for a living these days. I am very curious if another school district hired her.

Basic Bob

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

A cursory Google search has revealed that she was a candidate for superintendent in Harvey, IL three years ago. If she has worked a day since she left town in 2009, it is not in the public record.

Basic Bob

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

i think it would be difficult to prove ms. washington ruined her career. dr. hope-jackson's track record stands on its own merits.

beardown

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Gorc, it's much worse. It's Detroit-like worse. And she took a couple hundred k off of them in 7 months, got a new benz, and various other benefits when she pulled this same exact stunt. Those are the merits of her past work.

Gorc

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Beardown - you are right Harvey is not Chicago, it's worse than Chicago.

beardown

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

Oh, and she has been fired in her last two positions and routinely had horrible relationships with the boards and pretty much just about anyone who she came in contact with.

beardown

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

Not being from here, I just did a quick search on her and found a long line of articles about mis-appropriation of federal and state funds. Arbor wiki has a nice collection of articles on her tenure at WR and Harvey (which is not Chicago). Fake resumes, bully tactics, mis-appropriation of funds, etc. Wow, that is a distinguished career.

Cash

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

Bob, Yes, we need to give credit where credit is due.

walker101

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

Chicago transplant, what more can you say.

Epengar

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Ms Arndt, I think the last line of the story desperately needs some help, at least quotation marks. Either that or you think the arbitrator was arbitrary and capricious.

Cash

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

Danielle, I think because in the paragraph above you use quotes, in the next paragraph it would clarify that it was said by the arbitrator and judge, thus quotes. I didn't really understand the sentence until I read Epengar's post. It reads like the arbitrator made an arbitrary and capricious ruling. Shelton upheld the arbitrator's "arbitrary and capricious" ruling with his March 14 court order. A lot easier to read and understand. Thanks for this report!!! I am so glad this is ending finally. It seems like this has been going on for years!

Danielle Arndt

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Sorry, but that's what the legal ruling is called. And I think it's pretty clear when you read the two paragraphs above in the story that what is being referred to here is the ruling and not the arbitrator.