The Norfolk Public Schools district paid $72,500 to avoid a discrimination lawsuit in the board of education’s regular monthly board meeting on July 8.
The former employee who filed the suit, Donna Lackas, will receive $50,000 for compensatory damages, as well as consideration for a confidentiality agreement for Lackas and her husband, Scott, according to a document obtained through the Nebraska open records law.
Donna Lackas’ attorneys will receive $12,500 for attorney fees and costs. NPS paid $17,500 of the settlement agreement, and its insurance company paid $55,000.
Donna Lackas was terminated from her position with NPS on Jan. 9, 2017. She filed a lawsuit on Nov. 8, 2018, according to Public Access to Court Electronic Records website, asserting claims about the employment relationship related to the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Both laws protect employees against discrimination related to sex, race, color, national origin and religion.
Donna Lackas agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and keep the details surrounding it confidential as part of the agreement. In the settlement documentation, Donna Lackas and Scott Lackas released the following statement: “We had a difference of opinion and went our separate ways. We have since mutually resolved the dispute between us.”
If they breach the confidentiality agreement, they are required to pay the district $500 for each disclosure. The district has no further comment on the dispute.
In a letter to the Daily News, superintendent Dr. Jami Jo Thompson said the district denies all liability to Donna Lackas, and the settlement was made to avoid litigation-related expenses.
“The district chose to settle this matter as a more prudent use of taxpayer dollars than continuing its defense in the legal process,” Thompson said.
Donna Lackas also will not apply or seek employment with the district in the future as part of the agreement, and the district will not disclose to any third party that she was terminated from her position and keep her personnel file confidential.
The settlement was approved and paid following a 31-minute executive session at the July 8 meeting. In a phone call afterward, Thompson said the settlement was a confidential personnel issue and more information would be disclosed at the next regular monthly meeting on Aug. 12.
As part of an agenda item at the August meeting, Thompson said, “Nebraska law requires the district to maintain a public record of all settled claims and this agenda item is intended to satisfy that requirement. A former employee filed a claim against the district. The district agreed to settle that claim in exchange for the former employee’s agreement to release the district against all liability related to her claim.”
Following the meeting’s adjournment, she said, “We value transparency as a board and like to share as much information as we can with the public, but it’s a personnel issue so I’m not able to discuss it. It’s confidential.”
The NPS board convened five executive sessions from May 13 to July 8 to discuss litigation, according to meeting minutes.