Former Sandwich Superintendent Rejects Proposed $500,000 Settlement

The former Sandwich superintendent of schools has chosen to reject a proposed $500,000 settlement of a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Sandwich School Committee.

John Davis, the Boston attorney who has represented the Town of Sandwich in the case, confirmed that Mary Ellen Johnson rejected the proposal late Wednesday afternoon, July 9.

In an interview Wednesday evening, July 9, Dr. Johnson said, “There are some things that need to be resolved and discussed that have occurred over the past three years.

“I cannot sign anything that says everything has been resolved when it hasn’t been,” she said.

Her decision effectively cuts the town’s payout to her by about $35,000, bringing it to about $465,000.

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The $465,000 sum represents a judgment previously reached in the case by Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse, along with about three months of accrued interest.

Also, because Dr. Johnson did not appeal Judge Muse’s decision to the Massachusetts Appeals Court within a designated legal window, she no longer can pursue the case through an appeal.

Earlier Wednesday, town manager George H. Dunham said he anticipated that the town’s insurance carrier, which has been paying nearly all the town’s legal costs, also will pay for between $50,000 and $100,000 of the sum due Dr. Johnson.

Mr. Dunham said the town’s municipal and school budgets will share the remaining cost of the payout in amounts yet to be determined.

In the interview Wednesday, she said, “I did not file an appeal. I felt there were other ways it could be addressed.”

Last October, Judge Muse ruled that the Sandwich School Committee breached its contract with Dr. Johnson, then the town’s superintendent of schools, in 2010.

Since that ruling, the question has been how much the town owed Dr. Johnson for that breach of contract.

At one point, Dr. Johnson, unhappy with the size of a proposed monetary settlement, fired her attorney and acted as her own lawyer.

She filed a proposed monetary settlement of close to $3 million, which was rejected by Judge Muse.

Dr. Johnson subsequently hired a new attorney. Rather than ask the attorney to appeal Judge Muse’s decision to a higher court, she sought to persuade the judge to increase the size of the judgment due her.

Last month, Judge Muse found that Dr. Johnson was trying to reargue a case that had been concluded and ordered her to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees for arguing against her motion. Those fees were not part of the proposed settlement.

Speaking Wednesday of her decision to reject the proposed settlement, Dr. Johnson said, “It has to be something that I can live with.”

 

UPDATED July 11, 2014, 9:42 AM with comments from Mary Ellen Johnson.

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