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Flint, MI— The Flint Community Schools Board of Education filed a motion on Nov. 4 to dismiss Superintendent Anita Steward’s lawsuit on the grounds of “improper venue.”
Steward filed the lawsuit at the 7th Judicial Circuit Court Sept. 8, alleging board members, individually and collectively, prevented her from performing her duties as superintendent by overstepping their authority and “thumbing their noses” at board bylaws.
The Motion to Dismiss, prepared by Attorney Cha’Ris Lee, who represents the board, alleges filing at the 7th Circuit Court violates an arbitration clause in Steward’s contract. The clause states that disputes must be settled by binding arbitration pursuant to the Michigan Arbitration Act.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the opposing parties appoint a third-party arbitrator to settle the dispute outside of judiciary court.
“Filing a lawsuit against the district is strictly prohibited in the contract due to the arbitration agreement the parties agreed to. The arbitration clause states any claims arising out of the employment relationship are subject to arbitration,” the motion states.
Steward’s lawsuit, prepared by Attorney Tom Pabst, argues the Arbitration Clause is revocable under Michigan law as it is considered common law arbitration, which can be revoked “before an arbitration award is made.”
According to the lawsuit, Steward is seeking at least $100,000 in monetary damages alleging that the board’s “misconduct” and violations of Michigan Legislature caused Steward several injuries, including loss of employment, loss of wages and earning capacity, emotional and mental “anguish,” and “incurrence of actual attorneys fees and costs” to enforce her legal rights.
Following months of turmoil with the board, Steward left for Family and Medical Leave on Aug. 31 at the recommendation of her doctor, Pabst said. It is unclear if or when she will return to the district.
Flint Community Schools Board President Carol McIntosh, Vice President Danielle Green, Treasurer Laura MacIntyre, and Secretary Joyce Ellis-McNeal are also being sued individually.
They all face the same allegations: Whistleblower Protection Act Violation, a law that protects those who report violations of the law; Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status;” breach of contract; and gross negligence.
A motion hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom. Judge Brian Pickell will preside over the hearing and determine whether the parties must settle by arbitration.