Ex-Harvey schools chief wins $400,000 over ‘ass-kicking’ comment by board member
A former schools superintendent who claimed a Harvey Elementary School District 152 board member threatened her by saying she was “itching for an ass-kicking” has been awarded $400,000 in a retaliation lawsuit filed against the south suburban school board.
Denean Adams said in her suit that she was denied a one-year contract extension as superintendent because she asked the board to investigate possible misspending by the school district and was the subject of the threat because of her request for an audit.
A jury found in favor of Adams in early November after a five-day trial in Chicago in federal court.
“The jury sent a strong message that school boards have to respect the constitutional rights of public employees,” said Adams’ attorney Jerome Davis.
Adams’ three-year contract lasted through mid-2016. The school board voted to extend her contract for another year, then rescinded its offer.
Adams had replaced Mayor Eric Kellogg as superintendent in 2013. Kellogg, whose mayoral term is up next year, held the schools and mayoral roles at the same time.
Adams made $165,000 in her first year as superintendent, with 3 percent raises the following years, according to court records.
In February 2015, the board gave her a good performance evaluation and voted to extend her contract through June 2017, according to the lawsuit, which said she grew concerned about more than $500,000 the district had spent on computer services.
In May 2015, Adams asked the board for approval to hire an auditor to review the district’s finances. In July 2015, according to the lawsuit, board member Tyrone Rogers called her while she was driving and screamed at her that she was “itching for an ass-kicking.”
The Harvey Police Department made a report but took no action, the lawsuit said.
Two months later, Adams met in a closed session with board members and was told they were now unhappy with her performance, the lawsuit said. In August 2015, the board voted to rescind her contract extension.
Adams said board members harassed her over the following year and ignored her requests — including rejecting her recommendation to fire an employee for calling a superior “the head n----- in charge.” Adams left the district after her contract expired in July 2016. She said she suffered weight loss, insomnia and panic attacks.
Her lawsuit said cronyism and corruption flourishes in the Harvey school district and that the board “protects its own and punishes anyone who dares to speak out against them.”
Rogers and his wife, Janet Rogers, had been friends with Kellogg, and Tyrone Rogers was president of the board when Kellogg was appointed superintendent, according to the suit.
Janet Rogers, who is now president of the school board, was convicted of a felony in 2002 for defrauding a college financial aid program, but Gov. Pat Quinn pardoned her in 2013. She held a seat on the Harvey school board for two years before she was pardoned.
Tyrone Rogers is facing a charge of aggravated sexual assault in Cook County criminal court, charged with trying to force a woman to have sex in his office at the Harvey Municipal Center in 2016. He’s free on bail while he awaits trial, court records show.
In court filings in Adams’ lawsuit, attorneys for the school board said the decision to rescind her contract extension had nothing to do with her going to the police about Tyrone Rogers. They have asked U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman to overturn the jury verdict.