MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - A report commissioned by the Martin County School Board found Superintendent Nancy Kline violated school district policies by creating a hostile work environment for the district's former director of Exceptional Student Education.
The report issued Friday by attorneys at a Jacksonville law firm found "sufficient factual and legal basis" for Maryellen Quinn-Lunny to "successfully bring a Florida Public Whistle-Blower action against the school district."
The report also found Quinn-Lunny had undergone "retaliation and (a) hostile work environment to the extent prohibited by school district personnel policies."
However, the report states that other "potential causes of action, including federal and state, have not been sustained" — nor were any allegations against the school board sustained.
"I strongly disagree with what's in the report," Kline said Tuesday, adding that she was restricted in commenting about the findings because it's a personnel matter.
Kline promised to issue a further statement by late Tuesday afternoon.
Quinn-Lunny worked for the district from 1994 until her resignation as ESE director July 5. She also filed a complaint with the district's internal equity officer alleging, among other things, a hostile working environment and retaliation after she voiced concerns in June 2010 that Kline's proposed budget cuts would affect the status of the federal grant money for the exceptional student program.
The district didn't lose federal grant money because of the cuts, and Kline recommended Quinn-Lunny for another administrative contract for the 2011-12 school year.
"Despite the contract," states the report authored by attorney Michael K. Grogan, "Ms. Quinn was subject to many incidents that would lead a reasonable person to either believe their job was in jeopardy or cause a reasonable person to resign."
The report states the hostile conditions included:
"The stigmatizing effects of corrective action policy put in place (by) the Superintendent Kline regarding FCAT testing, especially given that such a plan does not appear warranted."
Quinn-Lunny's most recent performance evaluation by Kline that "was not conducted in (compliance) with school district policy requirements and is in stark contrast to all of Ms. Quinn-Lunny's outstanding past evaluations."
"Kline's reassignment of Ms. Quinn-Lunny's position to her subordinate, Ms. (Mollye) Kiss."
The report recommends that the "school board and the superintendent should take prompt, effective and remedial action."
Quinn-Lunny did not seek reinstatement to her old position. She has applied for the position of director of the Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. Jack Scott, the center's executive director, said he is "optimistic" Quinn-Lunny will be hired in the next few days and is "eager for her to come on board."
The report recommended she receive "positive letters of recommendation, damages and any other relief as appropriate."
Debra Nolan, Quinn-Lunny's attorney, said Tuesday her client was "quite pleased. She feels vindicated in many respects that her charges have been verified."
Nolan said she and Quinn-Lunny were "still reviewing the report and still exploring options as to where to go next," but she said a formal filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be the most likely step.
"Of course, the door is always open to the school board to resolve the matter," she added.
Nolan said Quinn-Lunny is entitled to "financial compensation for what she underwent over the last year and a half," but she declined to specify a dollar amount.
School Board Chairwoman Sue Hershey said Tuesday morning the board "will have to talk about this. What we do depends on what Maryellen does ... whether she files a complaint with the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or takes a whistle-blower case to mediation or to circuit court."
Either way, Hershey said, "this whole thing is going to be expensive (for the district), hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Hershey said the report "made it very clear that the superintendent violated school district policies, violated state laws and created a hostile work environment. ... But because she's an elected official, she thinks there isn't anything (the board) can do. She doesn't feel obligated to follow policy the way other district employees do."
© 2011 TCPalm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
One person will win a three-year lease on a 2013 Honda Civic Lx Sedan automatic.
Click to see the latest mugshots, plus this week's wanted fugitives.
This feature packed upgrade brings you faster performance, easier navigation, and stunning improvements to photos, video and readability.
Latest Local News Stories