Two claims filed with NR School DistrictIn just about a week’s time, New Richmond School District Administrator Morrie Veilleux was notified of two separate claims being filed against the School District.
By: Gail Winship, New Richmond News
In just about a week’s time, New Richmond School District Administrator Morrie Veilleux was notified of two separate claims being filed against the School District.
One is from a former employee who claims to have been wrongfully terminated and the other is from former District Superintendant Dr. Craig Hitchens regarding details surrounding his retirement package.
The first claim received by the School District is dated July 29 and was filed by attorney Carol Dittmar on behalf of her client Bruce Berglund, Osceola.
Berglund was formerly employed by the District as the director of Information Technology. His claim states that on Feb. 8, he was put on paid administrative leave due to suspicions that he was sabotaging the District’s computer network. He was also advised on that date that an investigation would be conducted immediately.
Berglund’s claim further states that on March 10, he was advised by the District Administrator that the investigations proved the suspicions were groundless, but they wanted Berglund to provide a proposal for his resignation. The claim says that the proposal was rejected by the District and he was then advised by a memo dated April 1, 2008, to return to work on April 7 and perform duties equivalent to that of an entry-level computer technician wth no administrative or supervisory duties.
The claim continues that because Berglund was under an employment contract, which ran from July 1, 2007 until June 30, 2009 and because the District failed to non-renew the contract by Jan. 31, 2008, the term did not end until June 30, 2010.
Since Berglund’s duties were reassigned unilaterally to that of an entry level computer technician, the claim states that the District, in effect, “constructively terminated Mr. Berglund’s contract.”
Berglund is suing the District for past and future lost wages and benefits not to exceed $250,000; emotional distress damages not expected to exceed $1 million; punitive damages not expected to exceed $1 million; and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred to enforce the rights violated by the District in an amount not expected to exceed $200,000, depending on the nature and extent of future proceedings.
The claim from Craig Hitchens came to the New Richmond School District in the form of a letter from attorney Michael P. Erhard on behalf of Hitchens.
In the letter, Erhard described an “amended contract” authorized by the School Board to pay Hitchens an additional $25,000 “in recognition of the extraordinary time and effort that he devoted to referendum and other business of the District during the 2004 - 2005 school year.”
The letter states that then School Board member Bill Brennan filed an official complaint to the Employment Trust Fund (EFT) and that agency undertook an investigation to determine whether the additional $25,000 compensation should be included for purposes of calculating Hitchen’s retirement benefits.
The ETF determined that the additional compensation should not have been considered in calculating Hitchen’s retirement benefits.
Since the $25,000 was not included in the retirement calculations, the letter says Hitchens has now “lost out on retirement benefits that will exceed $75,000 during his life” and that Hitchens has “incurrred $10,500 in attorney fees negotiating with and appealing from the determination by the ETF and battling the slanderous and defamatory allegations leveled at him by former school board member Brennan.”
As a result, Erhard suggests the School Board “facilitate settlement” with ETF on Hitchen’s behalf and pay Hitchen a lump sum payment in the amount of $10,500 to reimburse him for his attorney fees; and additional payments “in the amount of $5,000 per year for five years, commencing Dec. 1, 2008.”
None of the parties connected with the claims wished to comment on them as they are ongoing.