WESD Finalizes $150,000 Settlement for Whistleblower Claim

WESD Finalizes $150,000 Settlement for Whistleblower Claim

Written by Queenie Wong Statesman Journal, statesmanjournal.com

A laid-off Willamette Education Service District teacher and her lawyer will get $150,000 as part of a settlement to a whistleblower lawsuit filed against the district three years ago.

Former teacher Terri Moore claimed she lost her job because she repeatedly reported safety violations at the high school at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility and filed a formal complaint about harassment and bullying by Bill Conlon, the school’s principal.

She filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court in 2010 asking for as much as $500,000, plus attorney fees and reinstatement as a full-time teacher.

Under the settlement, Moore will get $86,355.75, and the law firm representing her — Lafky and Lafky —will receive $63,644.25.  She won’t be entitled to return as a full-time employee at WESD but still could work as a substitute teacher, according to the agreement.

WESD’s liability carrier, the Special Districts Association of Oregon, decided to settle the lawsuit because of the costs of going to trial last month. The district’s board chairman Ken Hector said in a statement Friday he understood the carrier’s decision to settle the case. “Choosing to move forward to defend the case at trial would burden WESD with all attorney fees and costs, impacting our general fund,” Hector said. “The ultimate outcome of resolution for this case is best for WESD and the districts we serve.”

Moore taught health and physical education at WESD’s youth correction education programs but was laid off in 2009 after 11 years with the district. WESD has denied the allegations brought by Moore, noting that they have been thoroughly investigated and found to be without merit. The district’s settlement signed by Moore is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability.

Moore’s lawyer, Kevin Lafky, said it’s clear Moore was retaliated against. She wanted to get her old job back; because that did not happen, they decided to settle was the best thing for her to get some sort of compensation for the retaliation. “The money she’s getting paid certainly doesn’t make up for losing a full-time job with benefits,” Lafky said. “For years, she’s been working as a substitute teacher to make ends meet since she was terminated from WESD.”

 It’s not the first time that the education service district has settled a whistleblower lawsuit filed against a former teacher.

(First published by The Statesman Journal and used here by permission)