Another appeal has been heard in a lawsuit filed against Hartland Consolidated Schools more than seven years ago by a former administrator.
Tracey Sahouri sued the district in 2012, alleging it violated the Whistleblower Protection Act when it removed her as principal from Creekside Elementary School. Discussions over a possible settlement in the case have repeatedly failed and a trial that had been scheduled in Genesee County Circuit Court for September was again adjourned after the school district filed another appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Hartland schools are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit and impose sanctions on Sahouri for her “failure to timely provide discovery of audio recordings” and her “destruction of text messages.” The recordings in question involve conversations Sahouri reportedly recorded on her cell phone, but only came to light in 2017. The Michigan Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday on this latest appeal in which one of the judges made clear to the district’s lawyer, Roy Henley, that this case has dragged on for far too long. “This appeal has been going on for a while…You’re making all these inferences and it sounds like this trial judge is pretty frustrated that this case has been going on for as long as it has. Personally, speaking only for myself, I can’t blame him.”
But criticism was also directed at Tom Pabst, the attorney representing Sahouri, about the delay in turning over the recordings and in continued opposition to a forensic audit of the devices to ensure all the pertinent material has been disclosed. “I have some concern with the fact that there seems to have been some games being played with these recordings because, frankly the idea that these were protected under work product in my opinion seems like a ridiculous argument. I think there has been games played. At least that’s what it looks like on the record I’ve reviewed.”
Sahouri claims her removal as principal and re-assignment to a teaching position was in retaliation for reporting “irregularities” in how the district administered state-mandated student achievement tests. The district contends Sahouri’s re-assignment was based on the conclusions of a state report that determined teachers at Creekside improperly gained access to material from the tests.
The panel will now consider the arguments they heard Wednesday and issue a ruling that will either move the case closer to an actual trial or continue to delay over procedural and evidentiary issues. (JK)