A school superintendent in south suburban Harvey filed a lawsuit alleging that her efforts to put the district’s spending under a microscope sparked retaliation by board members — including one who told her she was “itching for an ass-kicking.”
District 152 Supt. Denean Adams argued in a federal lawsuit filed last week that after uncovering questionable expenditures — including $500,000 in annual payments to a contractor for services that were not clearly identified — she asked the school board to authorize an outside forensic audit in May of 2015.
Her request “enraged” board member Tyrone Rogers, who several weeks later made a threatening phone call, telling her she was “itching for an ass-kicking,” according to the suit.
Adams informed School Board President Gloria Johnson about the phone call, and Johnson “indicated that she would take the issue up with the entire board, according to the suit.
However, after the board did nothing to address the issue, Adams met with a detective from the Harvey Police Department to file a complaint, the suit alleges.
The detective, who is named as a defendant along with the chief of police, allegedly refused to allow Adams to file a complaint. Adams was instead instructed to work it out with the school board.
Several weeks later, the board voted to rescind Adams’ one-year contract extension because she had failed to meet performance expectations — a measure that was retaliatory, according to the suit.
“The Board’s conduct is part of a custom of cronyism and public corruption that exists in District 152 where the Board protects its own and punishes anyone who dares speak against them,” the suit alleges.
The board never gave Adams written notice of the charges against her or allowed her to respond to them before the board voted, according to the suit, which argues that Adams’ free speech and due process rights were violated.
In response to the suit, Sean Howard, spokesman for the City of Harvey, issued this statement: “Any and all matters related to harassment is taken seriously by our department. Our Investigators approach this matter as if it would any other claim of harassment. However what our department won’t engage in is petty political fighting amongst administrators and elected officials. The contents within this lawsuit as relates to our department is baseless and without merit.”
Rogers did not immediately return requests for comment. Johnson said she was not able to comment because she had not read the suit. An attorney for the school district also declined to comment. And Adams, as well as her attorney, did not return phone calls.
Adams, who is seeking punitive damages, suffered extreme emotional damage as well as weight loss, insomnia and panic attacks, according to the suit.