FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Phillip G. Steck, Attorney
May 11, 2007 (Cooper Erving & Savage LLP)
FORMER EMPLOYEE OBTAINS JUDGMENT
AGAINST LAKE PLACID CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Angela Heroux worked as a part-time cashier/clerk for the Lake Placid Central School District. She spoke out against the school budget at a meeting of the Board of Education on May 9, 2006. Superintendent Ernest Stretton reacted angrily to Mrs. Heroux’s speech, He replied:
“It’s despicable. To sit here and read that garbage and implicate this board is despicable. If you don’t like it, you can pack your bags and leave. This is not about the budget; this is about a disgruntled employee.” Shortly thereafter, her employment was terminated.
On June 30, 2006, Mrs. Heroux filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York stating that Mr. Stretton and the Board of Education had violated her rights under the United States Constitution by retaliating against her for her speech on the school budget. The First Amendment prohibits the government from penalizing someone who simply has exercised her right as a citizen to speak out on matters of public concern. The lawsuit sought damages against the Lake Placid Central School District under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was enacted to prevent local and State government from violating the Federal Constitutional rights of citizens.
Today, the Lake Placid Central School District consented to allow judgment to be entered against it in the lawsuit in the amount of $69,000. This concludes the lawsuit.
Phillip G. Steck, of Cooper Erving & Savage LLP, in Albany, New York, Ms. Heroux’s attorney, commented: “I am very happy for Angela. By allowing judgment to be taken against it, the School District and the Superintendent are admitting that they acted wrongfully. She should feel vindicated.” The amount of the judgment reflected the fact that Mrs. Heroux was only a part-time employee of the School District.
Mrs. Heroux added: “This has been a very difficult situation for me and my family. I would never want anyone to go through what we have in this small town. No taxpayer should ever be penalized for asking questions, speaking their mind, or wanting accountability from their elected officials.”
Mrs. Heroux explained why she accepted the amount of the judgment. “The best thing to do is put this behind me and move on. My goal was never to go through years of litigation.” Mrs. Heroux, who has a child in the Lake Placid Central School District, saw her acceptance of the judgment as in the whole community’s best interest. “One person’s vindictiveness has caused much distress. That attitude is counterproductive. The goal is to make sure the community carefully watches every dollar that is spent and properly provides for the students in our schools and the families and neighbors who struggle each day to make ends meet in the North Country.”