Flint, MI—A judge will decide on Jan. 24 if and how a lawsuit filed by Flint Community Schools’ former superintendent Anita Steward against the Flint Community Schools Board of Education will proceed.
The lawsuit, filed at the 7th Circuit Court Sept. 8, 2021 alleges the district and board members, individually and collectively, prevented Steward from performing her duties as superintendent by overstepping their authority and “thumbing their noses” at board bylaws.
Board President Carol McIntosh, Vice President Danielle Green, Treasurer Laura MacIntyre, and Secretary Joyce Ellis-McNeal are also being sued individually.
Steward is seeking at least $100,000 in monetary damages saying that the board’s alleged “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.
On Nov. 4, 2021 the board filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of “improper venue,” meaning that disputes between the school district and the superintendent must be settled by binding arbitration pursuant to the Michigan Arbitration Act as well as Steward’s employment contract.
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 Nov. 4 motion states.
On Dec. 17, 2021, board counsel Attorney Cha’Ris Lee and Attorney Timothy Gardner replied to the motion to dismiss, similarly arguing that monetary negotiations and further disputes are subject to arbitration due to a binding arbitration agreement in Steward’s contract.
The motion also argues that board members cannot be sued individually because they were acting in their capacity as elected officials.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25. The school district’s attorneys did not reply to requests for further comment by press time.
The Jan. 24 hearing was originally scheduled for Nov. 15, 2021, but was rescheduled to Dec. 6, 2021 due court rules that require hearings to be scheduled at least 21 days in advance, according to Lee. Lee confirmed the Dec. 6 hearing was cancelled but did not offer further details as to why.