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Oscoda principal sues school district, IRESA

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Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 12:00 am

OSCODA - Oscoda High School’s principal has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bay City, contending he has been significantly damaged by a series of actions he allegedly suffered at the hands of Oscoda Area Schools (OAS), the Iosco Regional Educational Service Agency (IRESA) and two school officials.

Neil B. Brady of Tawas City, through his attorney Victor J. Mastromarco Jr., is seeking undisclosed damages from the two entities, as well as from OAS Superintendent Christine Beardsley and Mary Warzecha, erroneously identified in the lawsuit as the IRESA special education director.

Brady contends that Beardsley and Warzecha, along with the organizations which employ them, deliberately set out to embarrass and discredit him shortly after he became the principal of Oscoda High School on Aug. 1, 2007.

According to the complaint, Brady was initially praised by Beardsley, who evaluated him three times over the next five months.

In February 2008, Brady alleges, Warzecha - who was employed by IRESA to serve under contract as OAS’s special education supervisor - began making false, malicious and reckless allegations against him. These were followed by accusations by Beardsley, who allegedly called him a liar and accused him of not being a team player. Brady contends Beardsley did this in an attempt to force him to resign.

Brady did not resign and, on May 20, 2008, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into “multiple false charges” which, he alleges, were made by Warzecha and Beardsley.

A week later, the lawsuit continues, Warzecha and the assistant high school principal met with seven popular students, allegedly sharing with them confidential information about Brady, as well as the false accusations, for the purpose of defaming him. [Beardsley may also have been involved in this meeting, according to information provided by the parents of one of the students at the time.]

Warzecha is further alleged to have told third parties that Brady had committed a crime.

The allegations go on to state that, even after it became clear the charges were concocted and would not stick, Warzecha and Beardsley made plans to build a file in order to justify terminating Brady.

He was not fired and was reinstated at a school board meeting in late July, according to a newspaper file story in which school board President Neal Sweet was quoted as saying that there had never been a state investigation and every allegation brought against Brady was completely unfounded. He also revealed there had been eight allegations in total, brought by Warzecha, who resigned about this time.

According to the lawsuit, Brady returned from administrative leave in August, after which Beardsley called a meeting of all administrators, according to the lawsuit. He alleges that, during this meeting, he was verbally attacked by Beardsley and another district administrator. He contends they publicly said he was a liar and would have a lot to do to regain their trust.

Brady states that, on Sept. 12, he received a pretextual evaluation and, although he was listed at satisfactory, there were many areas in which he was graded unfairly as unsatisfactory, with the evaluation full of defamatory and untrue comments. He alleges this was purposely done to build a file.

As a result of the evaluation, according to the lawsuit, Beardsley placed Brady on an individual development plan (IDP).

Brady alleges that, as part of the IDP, Beardsley again told him he was a liar and that he should apologize to the teachers for being a liar as a condition of his continued employment. Brady contends he did so and found it both embarrassing and unfair. Brady then reported to Beardsley that he had followed her direction and she allegedly replied two days later, yet again calling him a liar. That was on Oct. 13, according to the complaint.

Beardsley allegedly met with Brady on Oct. 20 to finalize the last goal of the IDP and subsequently wrote him up for violating the IDP, adding disciplinary action.

Brady went on sick leave on Oct. 30 for heart problems that, he alleges, are directly related to the defendants’ treatment of him.

Despite being on sick leave, Brady alleges, the defendants continued to harass him with certified letters, requesting him to appear for meetings, including a November hearing, in order to further their agenda to provide disciplinary action.

The six-count lawsuit contends these and other actions violated the Family Medical Leave Act; amounted to constructive discharge in that Brady was disciplined and sanctioned without first having been given a hearing, in violation of his due process rights under federal law; violated his 14th Amendment equal protection rights, contending the defendants acted under the color of law, intentionally discriminating against him in an attempt to oust him; was tortious interference with a business expectancy and contract, and resulted in defamation of character and violations of Brady’s due process liberty issue by allegedly making statements such as that the state and federal governmental agencies were considering pursuing criminal charges against Brady.

The fourth count was brought against IRESA alone and contends that federal code was violated when IRESA, through Warzecha, interfered with Brady’s contract of employment with OAS.

In addition to seeking a judgment in excess of $75,000 on each count for all past, present and future economic and non-economic losses, Brady also seeks attorney fees, costs and punitive damages.

Brady is originally from Philadelphia, Pa., moving to Iosco County in 1973 when he was stationed at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

After leaving the Air Force, he served as an Oscoda teacher for six years before being named the Richardson-Elementary Middle School assistant principal in July 2002.

He was made the high school assistant principal on Aug. 1, 2007, and was named the high school principal two weeks later.

Brady’s lawsuit was filed on Jan. 15 and, according to the U.S. District Court, was served on the defendants in early February. They have yet to file an answer to the allegations.

Dr. Thomas Caldwell, the IRESA superintendent, said he believes his organization is being sued because it employs War-zecha, but could not comment beyond that.

He added that Warzecha continues in IRESA employ, although not as the special education director. That position is held by someone else. Warzecha is currently contracted to Tawas Area Schools.

Beardsley added that, at the advice of counsel, she is unable to comment on behalf of OAS at this time.

Brady remains on medical leave, according to his attorney.