Kamenski suit against schools grinds on toward trial

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

There is no settlement for a nearly two-year-old lawsuit by former Wellington curriculum director Christopher Kamenski.

The Wellington board of education has opted against a proposed pay-out in the case, leaving lawyers to hammer away at each other as recently as Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“Attorneys for Mr. Kamenski did make an offer and the board declined it,” Wellington school district superintendent Dennis Mock told the Enterprise last week.

“The board members have considered their options with the attorney and did not feel that the settlement offered was acceptable,” he said.

Mock said he could not comment on why the suit continues to grind on, and neither side would say what the proposed settlement amount was.

However, Kamenski was eager to talk about the case in general, alleging that the school board is stalling and hoping he simply vanishes.

But he says he has intention of dropping the suit.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to me, based on the retaliation that I suffered under John Nolan and three of the Wellington board members who supported him,” Kamenski said. “What I would like to do is, I want to hold the people responsible who are accountable.”

The original complaint, filed in July 2014, claims Kamenski was harassed by Nolan, who then served as superintendent.

Problems emerged in December 2012 when Nolan took aim at Pat Abels, a paraprofessional for the district, calling her a “bag lady,” according to the suit, and directing McCormick Middle School principal Tim Simpson to “start writing her up to ‘hit her in the pocketbook.’”

When Kamenski objected to Abels’ treatment, Nolan and several school board members retaliated, the suit claims.

Abels was terminated but a union arbitrator found it had been without just cause. Her employment was eventually restored.

Later in December, school board member Jacquie Dovin told Nolan to “make sure he gives Plaintiff Kamenski a really bad evaluation so they can terminate him in a few months,” the suit alleges.

An unsatisfactory job rating did emerge, starkly different from the “exceeds standards” performance rating he’d gotten the prior March.

With tension escalating at work, Kamenski resigned June 29, 2013.

He sought employment as an administrator at the Mason school system in Michigan and was hired — but came under scrutiny there when an anonymous letter was sent to that board of education along with news coverage of his dispute with the Wellington Schools.

The letter said Kamenski had “damaged most of his past employing districts” and urged Mason educators to conduct “a complete and thorough mental health evaluation along with random drug testing.”

It said they should “not be fooled by this so-called Christian,” and that they should “not become a victim like the rest or do not allow him to handle funds whatsoever,” according to the suit.

Kamenski’s lawsuit accuses Dovin of writing and sending the letter.

Wellington school board member Ayers Ratliff told the Enterprise on Tuesday that he was in a behind-closed-doors meeting when fellow board members “plotted” to write and send it.

In a phone interview, Kamenski said his attorneys are seeking a forensic analysis of the letter to determine whose handwriting it contains. He believes such tests can be 95 to 98 percent accurate in identifying writing samples.

He said his lawyers also plan to look at latent fingerprints and impressions on the envelope and letter.

“I’m very confident that whoever wrote and sent that letter will be identified,” he said.

A jury trial is expected in November.

In the meantime, Kamenski has not been able to find a job in the education field.

The last couple of years he has been waiting tables at a restaurant and doing odds-and-ends jobs to make money.

“It’s been very stressful on my family, on my wife, on my marriage,” he said. “My reputation has been ruined. When you look at the facts and my 14 years of education, in all my evaluations I never received a negative remark… until remarks by John Nolan.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk