Former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson has agreed to pay Riverside Elementary School District 96 nearly $60,000 to settle claims that he was paid more than he should have been during his final four years on the job.
At a brief special meeting Tuesday night, the District 96 Board of Education voted, without any discussion in open session, to approve a settlement with Lamberson that calls for Lamberson to pay the district $58,812.93 by July 1 to settle all claims of overcompensation. Lamberson admitted no wrongdoing.
School board President Jeff Miller read a short statement after the vote. In addition to repaying the district, Miller said, Lamberson’s pension will also be reduced and the district also expects to receive funds from the Teachers Retirement System related to payments the district made to the system upon Lamberson’s retirement.
The amount the district will receive from the TRS is not specified in the agreement. Miller said the amount still must be calculated.
Miller also stated that the agreement with Lamberson would be posted on the District 96 website.
“The board is pleased to have this matter resolved, permitting it to focus on the goals outlined in the district’s strategic plan,” Miller said.
After the meeting, Miller declined to answer questions about the settlement.
Co-Interim Superintendent Griff Powell said that he is happy that the Lamberson issue is finally resolved so the board can focus on the future.
“It’s good to place it in their rear view mirrors,” Powell said.
An exhibit that is part of the settlement agreement indicates that Lamberson received more in pay than he should have in each of the last four years of his nine-year tenure in District 96.
It indicates that Lamberson was paid nearly $9,000 more than he should have been in the 2009-10 school year, nearly $16,000 more than he should have been in the 2010-11 school year, about $9,000 more than he should have been in the 2011-12 school year, and about $10,000 more than he should have been in his final year.
Lamberson is also paying the district $18,769.05 in “liquidated damages” as part of the settlement. According to the school district’s attorney, Shelli Anderson, the “liquidated damages” referred to in the agreement represent a recalculation of how much Lamberson owed the district for leaving his position before his contract expired.
The three-page settlement agreement states that the overpayments occurred because Lamberson and the school board interpreted his contract differently.
“Dr. Lamberson and the board have differing viewpoints as to the amount of overcompensation, but have agreed to resolve their differences through a settlement,” the agreement states.
Lamberson’s final contract with District 96, signed in 2009, called for him to get 4-percent raises for each of the four years of the contract. But after Lamberson retired in 2013, the district had to pay about $77,000 in additional contributions to the TRS, commonly referred to as penalties, because Lamberson’s actual raises exceeded 6 percent.
During Lamberson’s tenure as superintendent in District 96, he was the only high-level professional employee in the district office.
School board Vice President Mary Rose Mangia, who was elected to the school board and named board president about a month before Lamberson left, was surprised that the district had to pay the TRS penalty when Lamberson’s contract called for 4-percent raises.
In late 2013 Mangia pushed for an in-depth investigation into Lamberson’s compensation. Board members Rachel Marrello and Randy Brockway, who were elected on a slate with Mangia in 2013, also pushed to investigate Lamberson’s compensation.
That investigation and the legal negotiations with Lamberson and the TRS have been costly for the district. In January 2015, the district estimated that it had spent about $42,000 in legal fees relating to investigating Lamberson.
The district apparently reached a tentative agreement with Lamberson about one year ago, but it took a lot longer to get the TRS to sign off on the deal.
District 96 also investigated Lamberson’s use of the district credit card and reimbursements for expenses. Last summer, the school board voted unanimously to direct its law firm to comply with a subpoena from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
Marrello reportedly brought the expense matter to the attention of the state’s attorney’s office, and the matter is still being investigated.
Cook County State’s Attorney spokesman Steve Campbell said that the investigation of Lamberson is almost finished but still ongoing.
“It’s almost done,” Campbell said. “We have a couple more folks we want to interview.”
This article has been changed to clarify the term “liquidated damages” and to reflect new information about the status of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s investigation into Lamberson’s use of a school district credit card.