School sues McPhail, al­leges she has prop­erty

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY JEN­NIFER CHAM­BERS The Detroit News

Detroit — Of­fi­cials at a Detroit char­ter school are ask­ing a judge to is­sue an emer­gency re­strain­ing or­der against Sharon McPhail to pro­hibit her from manag­ing busi­ness op­er­a­tions at the school and to re­turn its prop­erty.

Nancy Berkom­pas, a newly ap­pointed con­ser­va­tor of Detroit Com­mu­nity Schools, filed a law­suit and re­quest for an in­junc­tion against McPhail on Thurs­day in Wayne Cir­cuit Court, al­leg­ing that af­ter McPhail was fired on Mon­day, she re­fused to leave.

McPhail was ter­mi­nated af­ter she re­fused to ob­tain the proper state cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to be su­per­in­ten­dent at the school within three years of tak­ing the po­si­tion in 2012, school of­fi­cials said.

The same day, the school’s au­tho­rizer, Bay Mills Com­mu­nity Col­lege, in­stalled Berkom­pas, a former teacher and school su­per­in­ten­dent, as con­ser­va­tor.

The law­suit says McPhail ig­nored re­peated re­quests and no­tices to ob­tain the le­gal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to be a su­per­in­ten­dent or chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, in­cur­ring more than $200,000 in fines for her fail­ure to com­ply with the law.

Berkom­pas, through her at­tor­neys, is ask­ing the court to is­sue a judg­ment that says McPhail has no author­ity to op­er­ate or en­ter the school, to act as a sig­na­tory or co-sig­na­tory on school ac­counts and to keep any school prop­erty. The law­suit also asks for a ju­di­cial or­der to block McPhail from in­ter­fer­ing with the con­ser­va­tor and her du­ties.

In their re­quest for an emer­gency re­strain­ing or­der, Berkom­pas’ at­tor­neys al­lege McPhail was tres­pass­ing on school prop­erty and has pos­ses­sion of school checks and fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments, equip­ment, tech­nol­ogy and records

“Plain­tiff has suf­fered and will con­tinue to suf­fer ir­repara­ble harm if de­fen­dant is per­mit­ted to ex­er­cise author­ity over op­er­a­tions and man­age­ment of Detroit Com­mu­nity Schools,” the law­suit reads, in­clud­ing in­cur­ring fines for non-com­pli­ance with state law, cre­at­ing the fi­nan­cial in­abil­ity to pay school teach­ers and staff.

McPhail’s con­tin­ued op­er­a­tions of the school “will fi­nan­cially dev­as­tate plain­tiff and harm the well-be­ing of over 700 stu­dents” at­tend­ing the school, the law­suit al­leges.

Tom Shields, a spokesman for the col­lege, said af­ter McPhail was in­formed of her ter­mi­na­tion, she told the staff “she de­cided to take a va­ca­tion for rest of the week.”

“She did refuse to leave,” said Shields, de­clin­ing to ex­plain how McPhail was re­moved from the school.

Shield said he was told that McPhail did not want to ob­tain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion af­ter find­ing them “use­less.”

In or­der to avoid the le­gal re­quire­ment of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, over a pe­riod of two years McPhail served in four dif­fer­ent po­si­tions at the char­ter school, gen­eral coun­sel, chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer and school leader, the law­suit al­leges.

McPhail is an at­tor­ney and former gen­eral coun­sel for the city of Detroit. She was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment Thurs­day. Calls to at­tor­neys for the school were not re­turned.

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