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Bouris/Coughlin settlement splits $250,000 3 ways

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The settlement ending the $7 million lawsuit brought by two fired school employees splits $250,000 three ways -- equal amounts for former Principal Stavroula Bouris, former teacher Charles E. Coughlin Jr. and their attorney, Frank Mondano.

The $83,333 each will be paid from school funds and the schools' insurance carrier, in a move aimed at ending disputes dating to 2007.

The settlement terms are part of a court judgment in which all claims against former Superintendent Nathan Levenson, School Committee member Jeff Thielman and fomer systems technician Tracy Buck were dismissed.

Town manager answers some queries

In response to questions from YourArlington, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine explained in an email Thursday, Dec. 12: "The settlement amount and remaining legal fees will be paid through a combination of School Department operating funds previously allocated for legal costs, funds from the School Department's insurance policy, and if necessary funds from the town's operating reserve fund will be requested."

Asked why a joint town and school news release was issued when the town and School Committee were no longer defendants, he wrote: "All of the defendants were town employees or officials at the time of the events that formed the basis for the allegations contained within the plaintiffs’ complaint [filed in 2010], and we felt that as a matter of community concern, a joint statement was appropriate."

Asked whether contingency fund was kept in the event that lawsuit went against the town, Chapdelaine wrote that there is no such fund.
   
The plaintiffs’ agreed that judgment made by Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf in U.S. District Court in Boston resolves all remaining claims against the defendants; that is, for defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with business relationship and violations of their federal and Massachusetts civil rights.

All attorneys involved in the trial had planned to release a joint statement about the settlement following the court judgment on Tuesday, Dec. 10, but after the Town of Arlington and school administration issued their own news release that afternoon and Mondano was quoted by a Globe reporter, the attorneys decided not to do so.

Settlement details

An excerpted transcript of the settlement shows that the parties agreed to move on with their lives.

Under the agreement, the plaintiffs will not apply for employment with the Town of Arlington in the future. The Town of Arlington has agreed to respond to reference requests from either Bouris or Coughlin by confirming dates, positions and dates of employment.

All parties stated to Judge Wolf that they agreed to all settlement terms, the court transcript shows.

Edward Marlenga, interim town counsel for Arlington, was present in court to hear the settlement.

In the transcript, Wolf concludes:

"Over the years I've encouraged you to attempt to settle this case, in part because of the nature of the allegations and events. When cases are settled usually nobody is completely happy with the terms. It's in the nature of a settlement.

"But I think every one of the parties have good reason not to want to testify or testify further. You've been embroiled in this dispute for more than six years and I hope that this resolution will let each of you get on with your personal and professional lives and that in your future professional lives whatever you learned from this will give some redeeming value to an experience that I'm confident has been painful to every single one of you."

The federal trial in which a fired Ottoson principal and teacher sought $7 million began in U.S. District Court in Boston on Monday, Dec. 2, after a number of delays.

One impetus for the lawsuit dates to July 2007, when YourArlington published a report that then-Principal Bouris and Coughlin were under investigation for "potential inappropriate conduct" involving a series of emails written on the schools' computer system. Other media reports followed. Bouris and Coughlin were fired the next month, and a systems technician was cleared. The suit was filed Feb. 8, 2010.

The plaintiffs and their attorney are scheduled to be paid $250,000 by the Town of Arlington on or before March 31.

It is believed that neither Bouris nor Coughlin has worked in education since 2007. Neither has responded to requests for comment about that or any issue.

Many asked for comment

Key figures involved in this case have been asked to comment.

Levenson is a managing director of the District Management Council, which works with public-school leaders to help them improve.

"I'm pleased that there is now a final judgment that the terminations were for good and just cause and that the process used to make and implement these difficult decisions did not violate anyone’s rights," he wrote Dec. 12. "While strong emotions engulfed this situation, the facts confirmed a fair and reasoned process. I know all parties involved are happy to have the matter settled after so many years."

Thielman is president of Cristo Rey Boston High School in Dorchester.

Buck continued to work for the Arlington public schools in IT department until about a year ago, when she left, said David Good, IT director. She could not be reached for comment.

Barry Klickstein, Levenson's attorney, wrote:

"I am pleased that the parties, after six days of trial, were able to bring this unfortunate matter to a conclusion. The judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts, to which the plaintiffs agreed, affirms that none of the defendants' conduct leading up to and surrounding the plaintiffs’ terminations violated any of the plaintiffs' rights or caused them any injury. Now all concerned can move forward, and the town’s resources be directed to the children, not litigation."

Mark Lavoie, the attorney for Thielman, wrote Dec. 12 that his client "is pleased that the matter has finally resolved."

Coments from those who yet to respond will be added after they are received.


This story was published Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, and updated the next day.

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