Harbor Springs school district settles with Scholten
Mark Tompkins/Karey Scholten (September 17, 2013)
Former principal Karey Scholten, 44, filed a lawsuit seeking more than $75,000 in damages in 2012 alleging the school district and superintendent Mark Tompkins, created a highly stressful work environment that led to a drunk driving arrest in August 2011 and that she was wrongly removed from her job as principal.
Scholten was placed on medical leave from March to June 2011 from her position as principal for Blackbird and Shay elementary schools in the Harbor Springs Public Schools system — where she had worked since 2005 — following an arrest for driving intoxicated on Aug. 4, 2011. When Petoskey Public Safety ticketed Scholten, she recorded a 0.18 blood alcohol content.
Scholten was moved to a new position as curriculum director for the 2011-2012 school year following the incident. The job was eliminated in the 2012 budgeting process.
In the lawsuit, Scholten contended the school district wrongfully terminated her based on disability, gender, hostile environment and retaliation. A complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 7, 2011, which was answered with a right-to-sue letter in April 2012 — a legal requirement for filing a wrongful termination civil case.
Attorney Nicholas Roumel, representing Scholten, told the News-Review last year the superintendent “forced a medical leave on Ms. Scholten without any justification for doing so, and that led to a series of events that occurred, kind of like a stone causing ripples in a pond, from people wildly speculating about the nature of Ms. Scholten’s medical leave to the disruption in her own life and professional career.”
Harbor Springs Public Schools’ legal defense countered that the superintendent “suggested (the) plaintiff consider a medical leave of absence as an alternative to allow her to work on regaining her health,” which was followed up with Scholten attending an out-of-state, in-patient treatment facility.
But, rather than see the allegations to conclusion, both Scholten and the district reached a financial settlement before a trial.
“The terms were amicable. Both sides were satisfied with the resolution,” said William Vogelzang, attorney for Harbor Springs Public Schools in the case.
Vogelzang said the settlement was both financial and included a “neutral letter of recommendation” from the district.
“The terms of the (financial) settlement are to be kept confidential,” Vogelzang added.
Because this is a financial matter pertaining to a government body, a school district, the Petoskey News-Review plans on filing a Freedom of Information Act request for this information.
Superintendent Tompkins said he believes all parties involved are “pleased the case is over.”
“I think this was a mutually satisfying outcome to both sides,” he said.
Scholten’s attorney did not return a request for comment on this story.
— Morgan Sherburne, News-Review staff writer, contributed to this story.