The Board of Education voted Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with former Superintendent Judith Palmer, who sued the school district after she claimed Oxford owed her back pay of approximately $4,200.
The board, which discussed details of the settlement agreement behind closed doors with its attorney for more than an hour, voted 6-3 to approve that agreement. However, the board refused to release details of the settlement with the public or the press.
Board Chairwoman Paula Guillet said the reason for silence at this point is that the deal is not finalized. The board's attorney said settlement details would not be made public until the agreement is signed by all parties. At that point, it would be a public document available through the Freedom of Information Act.
"We will not be releasing any further details about the settlement until it is finalized," Guillet said.
Palmer, who worked as head of Oxford schools for about five years, left the district in the summer of 2010 at a base salary of $132,444 a year. She was to be paid biweekly payments of $5,170. She says that she was paid just $970.80 in her last paycheck, leaving her $4,198.20 short of what she should have been paid.
In a lawsuit she filed in November, Palmer said she suffered mental and emotional stress and has incurred legal fees. She was seeking damages for lost money, compensatory damages, and punitive and consequential damages. She was seeking double damages in excess of $5,000 and attorney's fees, costs, interest and “such other relief as the court may deem just and equitable.” She claimed a trial by jury at Litchfield Superior Court.
Palmer's departure with Oxford schools was bitter and caused quite a stir among many supporters and those who sided with the school board that was accused of orchestrating a plan to oust Palmer. She ultimately resigned and took a job as superintendent of schools in her town of residence, Winsted, Litchfield County, where she is still head of schools.
In an attempt to recoup the money she was owed, Palmer filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor. A wage enforcement officer for the state concluded that she was owed the money, the lawsuit states.
The suit also states that former interim Oxford Business Manager Arthur Poole met with the wage officer and agreed that Palmer was owed $4,200. However, the school district's attorney, Michael McKeon, said Poole told him the district did not owe Palmer any money and that current Business Manager Rosemary Hanson agreed.
On April 16, McKeon wrote a letter to the labor department stating that the school board refused the payment, the lawsuit states. Many school board members said Palmer's claims were frivolous.
Still, Palmer's lawsuit states the labor department closed the case on April 25 and found the school board in violation of failing to pay Palmer properly.
How they voted
* Yes = agree to the settlement agreement; no = not in favor of the settlementName/Party Affiliation Yes No Paula Guillet - D X Lisa Hellauer - D X Gerard Carbonaro - R X Stephen Brown - D X Diane Soracco - D X Amy Cote - D X Ted Oczkowski - D X William Neary - R X Michael Macchio - R X