Carolina’s Accuser Settles For $35K

Paul Bass File PhotoThe school board has struck a deal with a former Hillhouse High School administrator whose allegations of grade-altering led to a controversial investigation.

The board Monday approved the $35,000 settlement with Shirley Love Joyner (pictured), who retired a year ago from her post as assistant principal at Hillhouse.

The payment settles a defamation lawsuit Joyner filed in 2012 in state Superior Court, in which she claimed the board failed to protect her from retaliation when she blew the whistle on her principal.

Joyner went out on medical leave on Jan. 9, 2012, shortly after she filed a complaint accusing her principal, Kermit Carolina, of grade-tampering. A report found most of her claims to be unsubstantiated. She retired on Dec. 1, 2012. Carolina, who has denied any wrongdoing, served a three-day suspension in connection to four charges that resulted from the probe. He is challenging those charges through an arbitration proceeding.

Joyner charged the Board of Ed with violating a whistleblower law, Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 31-51m, which protects employees who “disclose employer’s illegal activities or unethical practices.” In her lawsuit, Joyner said she faced retaliation after accusing Carolina.

The settlement came as the case was headed to trial. In exchange for receiving the money, Joyner has agreed to drop her suit, saving the city the risk of a potentially costly trial. If the board of education lost in trial, it would have had to pay her legal fees as well as, potentially, back pay.

The school board and Joyner’s attorney, Joe Garrison, both declined comment on the settlement. The agreement does not admit wrongdoing.

A judge on Jan. 31 dismissed a separate suit Joyner had filed against Carolina and his attorney, Michael Jefferson. They accused her of retaliating against Carolina for demanding a higher work performance.

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posted by: Bobbe Bellamy on February 11, 2014  3:14pm

No wonder the City is broke——they can never win a case (or at least -not too many).  I read about more payouts then anything else

posted by: Razzie on February 11, 2014  3:33pm

” A report found most of her claims to be unsubstantiated.”

What report is the author referring to? The Dugas Report commissioned by the Board of Education found several instances of grade tampering and improper conduct by Principal Carolina. He was punished (slap on the wrist 3-day suspension). And the suspension was not overturned on appeal.

Seems to me to be a stretch in trying to imply that Carolina was exonerated, regardless of the fact that he was allowed by the Board of Education to keep his job.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on February 11, 2014  6:42pm

Frankly, I am sick of all these lawsuits. I cannot remember reading about other towns and their lawsuits to this magnitude. As a taxpayer I am fed up and as far as our city attorneys, I have been told by city employees that you need to just walk into the office sometime you will see them floating around drinking coffee and socializing. The two that were actually very efficient and hard working were let go a few weeks ago. What’s the matter Bolden you afraid they will make the others look bad? Harp made a big mistake by not reappointing those two!

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on February 12, 2014  4:43pm

Those who comment against settlement seem to not understand the legal landscape or how the practice of law actually works.  Very few civil actions go to court and most settle.  That is because of the very large legal expense associated with trying a case.  The board of education (or more likely its insurer) would have almost certainly run up a legal tab well in excess of $35,000 defending this case. 

At the modest billing rate of $200 per hour (substantially less than many partners), the board of ed would have hit $35,000 with 175 billable hours worth of work.  Pre-trial preparation, deposing witnesses, drafting and filing briefs and pre-trial preparation would easily come out to more than 200 hours.  The settlement was indeed a good deal for the board and the city.

With regards to Ms. Joyner, I would’ve held out for more based solely on the math above.  She did bring a very serious problem to light and was punished because of that.  And the Dugas report does show that grade tampering occurred and Mr. Carolina was the principal at the time so the buck should have stopped with him. 

Regardless, it is good that the case is settled.  I hope the city and board reevaluate the findings of Mr. Carolina’s suspension and keep a close watch on the progress Hillhouse has or has not made since these allegations came to light.  If there has been no academic progress, the board should act accordingly.

posted by: Conscience on February 13, 2014  6:27pm

I must say that Razzie and Atticus are among the most rational writers to this publication and I give Three-Fifths kudos for research. They use evidence and word choices designed to inform and not to insult. I hope that the new education administration is more courageous and ethical about protecting employees who report wrongdoing as well as more deliberative in choosing people to run schools. If not, we will be back to square one. Mrs. Joyner was heroic in her stance and I look forward to seeing how this nasty period in our school district and city’s history ends. No person should be able to insult and degrade so many people without consequences.

posted by: Conscience on February 14, 2014  12:35am

To Bobbe B. This case was not likely to be won. The leadership of The school district failed the kids and Mrs. Joyner. It should have been nipped in the bud.