Jury draw proceeds in Stearns suit against ACSU school district

MIDDLEBURY — Barring successful mediation, a Rutland County jury on May 6 will begin hearing a lawsuit filed in 2011 by former Addison Central Supervisory Union Business Manager Sharon Stearns against the ACSU.
In her lawsuit — filed in Rutland County Superior Court on Sept. 13, 2011 — Stearns alleges that she was bullied by Lee Sease, who was during her employment superintendent of ACSU, and then was placed on administrative leave after she complained about his behavior.
Stearns served as the ACSU’s business manager for nine years before resigning during the spring of 2011 under strained circumstances. She filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that:
•  Sease — whose contract was not renewed by the ACSU board in 2011 and has his own lawsuit pending against the district — had been “bullying” her and creating a hostile work environment.
•  Sease eventually placed her on administrative leave, ordering that she undergo a “fitness for duty” evaluation before she could return to work. Stearns claimed that Sease “maneuvered” the ACSU board into mandating that she undergo a psychological evaluation.
Ultimately, the ACSU board commissioned a study of the work climate within the central office and created a list of return-to-work conditions — including monitoring of her performance as if she were on probation — that Stearns argued were “onerous, unreasonable, intolerable and unacceptable.”
•  The district, in announcing Stearns’ being placed on administrative leave, did not give a specific reason for her departure, stating only she would “be on personal leave for an indefinite period of time.” This announcement, Stearns claims, left people with the impression that she was ill, or negligent.
Stearns is suing the ACSU for “wrongful constructive discharge and retaliation”; “wrongful termination-breach of employment contract”; “breach of implied employment contract”; and “breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
Stearns alleges she has suffered “irreparable injuries” including loss of career opportunities, compensation and benefits, and other economic losses; emotional pain and suffering; mental anguish; humiliation; embarrassment; personal indignity; and other intangible injuries.
She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and other relief a jury might choose to award.
The ACSU is vigorously challenging the lawsuit with the aid of two attorneys, one representing the school board, the other representing the district’s insurance carrier, the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust.
In a Jan. 26 e-mail to ACSU board members, current Superintendent Gail Conley confirmed that the district’s attorney had asked him to assist him with the jury selection for the Stearns case on Tuesday, Jan. 29, in Rutland. He said some of the depositions had not been completed and an attempt at mediation would be scheduled soon. If mediation proves unsuccessful, a jury trial will begin on May 6, he said.
John Flowers is at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Sports Uncategorized

High school athletes ready for fall playoffs this week

See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.

Share this story: