Mt. Vernon Register-News

July 26, 2013

Attorney withdraws on behalf of MVTHS

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — A Mt. Vernon attorney representing the Mt. Vernon Township High School District in a civil lawsuit has withdrawn.

Jerome McDonald of the law firm of Black, Hedin, Ballard, McDonald, P.C. filed a motion on June 28 to withdraw as a representative for the school district in a 2012 complaint filed by former faculty member Kenneth Feather. Feather is represented by attorney Don Prosser of the law firm of Gilbert, Huffman, Prosser, Hewson and Burke, Ltd. The court accepted McDonald's withdrawal on July 17.

Feather filed the complaint on Oct. 11, 2012, naming the District 201 Board of Education and school superintendent Dr. Michael Smith as defendants.

In making the withdrawal, the law firm stated, "After conversations with the District's superintendent, Michael Smith, it was determined it would be in the best interests of the District for other counsel to represent the District and Michael Smith."

According to the complaint, the District offered Feather employment for the 2011-2012 school year and offered compensation of $88,604. Feather accepted the offer and "fully performed his assigned duties," completing those duties on or about May 22, 2012. Feather continued to receive monthly payments and provided "certain employment benefits" until Aug. 20, 2012, court records state.

Pursuant to Section 5 of the Illinois' Wage Payment and Collection Act, the Board of Education was obliged to make payment of final compensation due to Feather in full at the time of separation, or if payment was not possible, no later than the next regularly scheduled payday for the employee. The District paid Feather $66,435 for wages and compensation for his services for the school year, according to court documents. On or about Aug. 27, Feather demanded the Board fulfill the agreement and to pay him an additional $22,170 for wages earned during the 2011-2012 school year — which he has not received.

In his complaint, Feather states he is entitled to receive interest at a rate of 5 percent per annum for all monies that have become due per the employment agreement; and requested the court to tax as costs against the district reasonable attorney's fees "with other properly allowed costs of suit."

Count 2 in the lawsuit specifically names Smith as the responsible party for withholding proper payments to Feather; and Count 3 seeks a declaratory judgment concerning the Board's alleged wrongful report to the Illinois Teacher's Retirement System of Feather's wages and compensation. Feather claims the district "erroneously calculated the sums to be paid" into the retirement system for the 2007-2008 through the 2011-2012 school years, and as a result, he will receive a substantially reduced retirement annuity from the retirement system.

Feather alleges in the complaint he earned $58,853 from the district in 2007-2008, $65,166 for the 2008-2009 school year, $74,482 for the 2009-2010 school year, $86,213 for the 2010-2011 school year and $88,604 for the 2011-2012 school year.

Feather is asking the court to declare his earnings for the years he was employed by the district and to request the Illinois Teachers Retirement System calculate his retirement benefits based on the court's findings of correct wages during the time he was employed by the district, and to grant any further relief that is "just and proper."

The District filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in November 2012, which was denied by the court in February of this year. At the same time, the court granted a motion filed on behalf of Feather to dismiss the District's counter claim. An amended counter claim was filed in March and was answered by Feather's attorney in April.

No new court proceedings on the complaint have been scheduled.