Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Whistle-Blower Awarded $300K

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Whistle-Blower Awarded $300K

Article excerpt

A jury has awarded $300,000 in damages to a former employee of the Wayne schools who had sued the district, alleging that she was demoted and terminated after she blew the whistle on nepotism, political appointments and mistreatment of administrators by school board members.

The jury in state Superior Court in Paterson found in a 6-2 vote that Pat Brown-Kneisel proved that the Wayne school district and Board of Education wrongfully transferred her and eliminated her position as retaliation for whistle-blowing.

The jury ruled, also 6-2, that Brown-Kneisel did not prove that she suffered emotional distress as a result and awarded her no money on that count. But it ruled 8-0 that she is entitled to an award of back-pay damages totaling $300,000.

Brown-Kneisel had also sought punitive damages from the district, but she agreed on Friday to drop those claims. In return, the district agreed to pay her attorney fees and to not appeal the compensatory award.

Brown-Kneisel's attorney, Christine Lilore, declined to comment. Isabel Machado, an attorney for the school district, also declined to comment.

In her lawsuit filed in December 2012, Brown-Kneisel said she reported actions of supervisors and Board of Education trustees that she thought violated "the law, regulation, board policy, practice or procedure and/or public policy." She also objected to and complained about "repeated hires based upon nepotism and/or political appointments," and when she was up for renewal, the superintendent recommended her for the position, but the board did not follow the recommendation to renew her.

She also was asked to help the board as the human resources representative and "reported and/or objected to" what she says was the over-staffing of teachers, illegal discussion of staff members' jobs without the requisite notice, and abuse and mistreatment of administrative staff by board members. She also said she wrote an email in April 2011 claiming a board member used his or her position to obtain tutoring for her child. …

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