A woman who worked as payroll manager in a Kentucky school district says officials want to get rid of her because she complained about employees abusing a new time-clock system
WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — A woman who worked as payroll manager in a Kentucky school district says officials want to get rid of her because she’s a whistleblower who complained about employees abusing a new time-clock system.
The Grant County school district says Cheryl Breeden is out because she’s “incompetent” and “insubordinate.”
The dispute has resulted in a bitter legal fight.
The Kentucky Enquirer reports that Breeden has filed two lawsuits against the northern Kentucky district. A state hearing officer has already ordered Grant County Schools to give Breeden back her job.
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But three days after the hearing officer’s ruling, Grant County Schools sent Breeden another letter. They weren’t going to fire her, but they were going to non-renew her contract.
The outcome would be the same —Breeden would lose her job. The reason for the non-renewal was the same as the initial reason for firing her: incompetency.
“It’s crazy. Procedurally, it’s a mess,” said Gail Langendorf, one of Breeden’s attorneys. “They said, ‘Don’t come back. We don’t care what the hearing officer says.'”
A federal judge has intervened once on Breeden’s behalf, issuing an injunction and chastising Grant County Schools for firing her without due process.
Now, Langendorf is asking the judge to intervene again, saying the school district is skirting the hearing officer’s ruling by non-renewing Breeden’s contract
Breeden hasn’t been at work since August 2017, when the school district first tried to fire her.
Suzanne Cassidy, Grant County Schools’ attorney, declined to discuss specifics of the case but said the district is exploring its options.
Cassidy said the district filed the non-renewal notice not in response to losing the state hearing, but because of state deadlines regarding classified employee contracts. There are reasons for the non-renewal that were not discussed during the termination hearing, Cassidy said.
District officials are “in the process of pulling together specifics on that,” Cassidy said, “and again, it won’t be a rehash of what we just lost on.”
Breeden started with Grant County Schools in 2006 as an account clerk. She was promoted to payroll manager in 2013, and she received positive reviews, according to her personnel file.
A 2012 evaluation, one of only two in the file, shows Breeden getting the highest marks in every single category. Matthew Morgan, Breeden’s supervisor and now the district superintendent, wrote that Breeden is “dedicated,” ”thorough,” ”helpful” and “very detail oriented.”
Her attorneys contend the trouble started in the 2016-17 school year, after Grant County implemented a new time-clock system for hourly employees.
Breeden started noticing that employees were clocking in and out for one another and taking lunches while claiming to be on the clock.
She reported the abuse to Morgan, according to her whistleblower lawsuit. She “even contacted School Board members to discuss the excessive overtime problem and the extra cost to taxpayers which was occurring within the Board’s district.”
And that’s when the district started trying to get rid of her, Langendorf said.
“We’ve said all along, they didn’t fire her because she was incompetent. They fired her because she was complaining about people going to lunch on the clock.”
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com