iPad Whistleblower Files Suit Against Powell & Co

The latest in the Montgomery County Schools saga featuring outgoing superintendent Joshua Powell is big.

It involves iPad whistleblower Jennifer Hall.

Just in case you don’t remember her or are new to the story, here’s a refresher:

She who uncovered that photos of a child were inappropriately sent to some random old man, refused to lie to state investigators about that and other incidents and reported all the wrongdoing. She was summarily suspended and fired. Now it’s turned into a pretty big deal.

Because she just filed what may be the biggest suit yet:


THE COMPLAINT

Ready for some excerpts featuring names like Jacqui Johnston, Kristi Carter and Phil Rison?

Thought so:

FACTS

5. Ms. Hall was an employee of the Montgomery County Board of Education for almost 15 years.

6. During the last two years of her employment, she has worked with the before/after-school childcare program. Ms. Hall’s supervisor, the Director of Childcare, Kristi Carter, placed her in Montgomery County Intermediate School.

7. Throughout the time that Ms. Hall worked for the childcare program, the Intermediate School was consistently over the ratio of staff to children allowed by state law (which is 1:25 per 922 KAR 2:120).

8. In fact, it was often the case that Ms. hall was left alone to supervise as many as 38 children at a time.

9. Both Ms. Carter and her secretary, Mary Smith, had children who attended this daycare program, and thus were well aware of the staffing deficiencies.

10. Furthermore, it is well documented that Ms. Hall brought this issue to Ms. Carter’s attention time and time again.

11. Carter attempted to evade the state’s licensing requirements by shuffling staff members from facility to facility, rather than maintaining the required number of staff at each facility at all times, and attempted to make Plaintiff complicit in her actions.

12. At the end of March, 2013, a representative from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) came to inspect the Intermediate School after the ratio problem was reported.

13. Ms. Hall informed Ms. Smith that the inspector was there, and Ms. Smith came to the facility.

14. While the inspector was still present, Ms. Smith pulled the Plaintiff aside and instructed her to lie to the state inspector.

15. Specifically, Smith instructed Hall to tell the inspector that Ms. Smith was present at the Intermediate school every day, and that the children used certain facilities at Intermediate (which they did not).

16. Ms. Hall refused to lie to the state.

17. The inspector came back two days later, and found Ms. Hall on duty by herself, as usual, with 30 children.

18. Thereafter, the OIG issued a report finding that Montgomery County Intermediate School was not in compliance with state law. Another such finding was rendered after an inspection in May, 2013.

19. Ms. Carter became very angry with Ms. Hall for not giving false information to the state, and thus began a campaign of retaliation against her.

20. Ms. Hall was inexplicably removed from morning childcare duty altogether in May, while she was on medical leave. When she returned from medical leave, she was reassigned to a different school, again without explanation.

21. At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Ms. Hall was accused by Kristi Carter and by Jacqui Johnston of making social media posts that were critical of Montgomery County Schools. Carter and/or Johnston knew that these allegations were completely false.

22. The entire next school year was spent in a similar fashion, i.e. Ms. Carter attempting to “build a case” against Ms. Hall.

23. Finally, in May 2014, Ms. Hall received her first negative evaluation of her entire career.

24. Ms. Carter initially refused to go over Ms. Hall’s evaluation because Ms. Hall wanted to record it in order to protect herself.

25. The allegations against Hall in that evaluation were completely bogus and contrived.

26. In the May 2014 School Board meeting, Ms. Hall presented all Board members with copies of the rebuttal letter that she attached to her evaluation. This rebuttal letter clearly recounts the recent history of Ms. Hall’s refusal to violate the law, despite being requested to do so, as well as other systemic problems within the Montgomery County school system.

27. Shortly thereafter, in keeping with the patter of retaliation to which Ms. hall has been subjected, she was suspended. She remained on suspension from June 16 until August 4, while Jacqui Johnston and Phil Rison “investigated” the false and contrived allegations against Hall.

28. On or about July 19, 2014, Ms. Hall recounted her unfortunate story to Joshua Powell, Montgomery School Superintendent, in a letter. This letter lays out in no uncertain terms Hall’s allegations of illegal activities by Ms. Carter and Ms. Smith, as well as her unwillingness to violate the law on their behalf.

29. On August 4, 2014, about two weeks after informing Mr. Powell of her situation, Ms. Hall received a letter of proposed termination.

30. The reasons set forth in the letter of termination are clearly pretextual.

31. Thereafter, a hearing was held on November 11, 2014, regarding Hall’s termination in which Carter, Johnston, and Powell testified.

32. The testimony given by the witnesses against Ms. Hall at the hearing was misleading, incomplete, and/or false.

33. Hall’s termination was upheld as of November 17, 2014.

-SNIP-

36. During her employment by Defendants, Plaintiff reported and disclosed, in good faith, facts and information relative to actual and/or suspected mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violations of federal and state law, statutes, policies and regulations occurring within and in the course of the operation of the Montgomery County School System to appropriate authorities, including Superintendent Joshua Powell.

37. As a direct result of Plaintiff’s disclosures as referenced in the preceding paragraph, Defendants subjected the Plaintiff to retaliation and reprisal which culminated in Plaintiff’s suspension and non-retention.

Hall asks for an injunction allowing her to return to work with back pay, front pay and other benefits and compensatory damages.

Absolutely damning.

Carter, Johnston, Smith and Rison? Being so deeply involved — along with Joshua Powell — is the opposite of a Good Thing for them.

This is the biggest lawsuit yet because it involves young children and so many government agencies. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s the first time district employees will be able to come forward to support a complainant because they won’t have to fear Powell returning to retaliate.

It’s also the first time Powell’s personal attorneys at ELPO won’t be able to step in, keeping both the board attorney and the board iced out.

The best part is still to come. You’ll really enjoy next week.