In the media:
- Michigan Lawyers Weekly: "Ex-school official claimed smear campaign - She said new boss told her ‘resign or be fired’"
- Mlive: "Attorney: Jury's $1 million verdict vindicates embattled ex-GISD administrator"
- Mlive: "GISD loses more than $500,000 gamble taking ex-administrator's lawsuit to trial"
- ABC12: "Jury orders GISD to pay Beverly Knox-Pipes more than $1 million"
- ABC12: "Jury rules in favor of woman accused of stealing from GISD"
Description of Case:
TYPE II WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT AND BREACH OF CONTRACT CAUSES OF ACTION = TOTAL VERDICT $1,080,000.00
Sixteen year loyal employee and Assistant Superintendent Beverly Knox-Pipes was instrumental in the development of GenNET, a fiber optic tele-network system used by Defendant GISD to disseminate and provide great learning programs to school children in 21 different school districts throughout Genesee County. One of the schools, Clio, wanted out of the long-term contract it had signed with GISD because, it claimed, Clio was being forced to pay (as “costs” passed through) for multiple lavish trips, booze, and big tips by male board members and the former male superintendent of GISD. When GISD sued Clio to enforce the contract, Clio counter-sued to recover monies it paid for the men’s multiple extravagant trips.
DEFENDANT LISA HAGEL’S PLAN OF ATTACK #1 = “RESIGN OR BE FIRED”
Beverly Knox-Pipes helped GISD’s attorney in the lawsuit, and was subpoenaed to testify. The new Superintendent, Defendant Lisa Hagel, knew that Beverly Knox-Pipes and the former male Superintendent previously had a sexual affair outside the workplace, which the evidence showed ended well before Defendant Lisa Hagel signed a 3-year contract with Beverly Knox-Pipes on September 1, 2011. New Superintendent Defendant Lisa Hagel did not “trust” Beverly Knox-Pipes to keep information secret from Clio and the other School District Superintendents, so Defendant Hagel fabricated and concocted a $480 cell phone bill that she claimed Beverly was responsible for, and, incredibly, gave Beverly a “resign or be fired” ultimatum stating, “I have enough to terminate your employment right now” ($480 disputed phone bill). This “resign or be fired” ultimatum was given in the Fall of 2011. Superintendent Defendant Lisa Hagel warned Beverly: if you don’t resign, all of this might become public.
To her great credit, Beverly Knox-Pipes refused to resign, stating, “I have done nothing wrong, I am not going to resign”, whereupon Defendant Lisa Hagel quickly settled the Clio lawsuit in which Beverly had been scheduled to be deposed.
DEFENDANT LISA HAGEL’S PLAN OF ATTACK #2 = SMEAR BEV KNOX-PIPES
Defendant Lisa Hagel then engaged in an ugly smear campaign which included –
(1) Creating a 4-inch thick book which she testified she created, and tried to pass off as a “forensic audit”;
(2) Paying $76,000 of taxpayer money to a CPA firm and attempting to justify multiple charges she now claimed Beverly was responsible for including 10+ years of previously approved trips that were now “disapproved”;
(2a) Paying Beverly Knox-Pipes approximately $100,000 of taxpayer money to sit home and teach nobody for what Defendants’ called “paid administrative leave” while Defendant Hagel created and concocted a reason to fire Beverly;
(3) Holding press conferences to publicly announce that “Beverly Knox-Pipes used a cell phone to further a 10-year sexual affair with a former male Superintendent”;
(4) Exhorting the Genesee Prosecuting Attorney and the Lapeer County Prosecuting Attorney to prosecute Beverly Knox-Pipes criminally for alleged embezzlement/misappropriation of more than $87,000 in taxpayers’ monies;
(5) When the Prosecuting Attorney rejected Defendant Lisa Hagel’s book, and rejected Defendant Lisa Hagel’s story, Defendant Hagel issued a “press release” indicating how “disappointed” she was that Beverly would not be prosecuted criminally;
(6) Defendants changed/altered certain documents memorializing the October/November 2011 Hearings where the “resign or be fired” ultimatum was given, so as to leave out references to GenNET and the lawsuit.
Finally, the truth came out in front of the jury when male Board Member Mr. Ragsdale was asked, “Why did you spend $76,000 to create a 4-inch book when you already had enough to fire her before creating the book?”, whereupon Mr. Ragsdale answered, “To create a defense to this lawsuit”!!
While Tom R. Pabst was picking a jury and giving his opening statement, Attorney Jarrett Pabst and Legal Assistant Katie Lyon, went through two boxes of documents subpoenaed from Defendants’ CPA firm and found a document which read, in pertinent part:
“Question to address – why are these all of a sudden a problem when b4 they were approved [trips that Beverly Knox-Pipes took]”.
Indeed, Tom R. Pabst asked Defendants’ witnesses to answer that question for the jury, but they had no good answer.
The jury was out deliberating for 2 days, and came back with a verdict as follows:
$760,000 -- Type II Whistleblower violation
$320,000 -- Breach of Contract
$0 -- ELCRA Discrimination
TOTAL VERDICT = $1,080,000
A motion is pending to assess more than $160,000 in attorney fees and costs, which, together with interest, will be the total verdict amount to approximately $1,290,000.
*For more than 30 years, veteran civil rights attorney Tom R. Pabst has been successfully representing people in Genesee County and surrounding areas. His vast experience has proven effective in protecting the rights of his clients, and thwarting the injustices they have been subjected to. Time and again, his track record has shown that Tom R. Pabst is one of the leading civil rights attorneys in the State of Michigan.
Type of Action: (1) Type II Whistleblower Protection Act
(2) Breach of Contract
(3) ELCRA Discrimination/Gender
Injuries Alleged: Suspension/loss of job, lost wages, outrage/emotional distress/mental anguish/falsely accused of embezzling $87,000+ and Defendants sought to have Plaintiff prosecuted criminally
Name of Case: Beverly Knox-Pipes v. Genesee Intermediate School District and Lisa Hagel
Court: Genesee County Circuit Court
Case No: 11-97246-CK
Tried Before: Jury Verdict
Name of Judge: Hon. Judith Fullerton
(1) $760,000 – WPA Violation
(2) $320,000 – Breach of Contract
(3) No cause – ELCRA Discrimination
TOTAL VERDICT - $1,080,000 + approximately $160,000 in attorney fees and costs
Date of Verdict: 3/12/14
Last Offer to Settle: $450,000 by Plaintiff following summation
Non-unanimous ADR award of $375,000 accepted by Plaintiff and rejected by Defendants
Most Helpful Experts: N/A
Key To Winning: Using Defendants’ own altered/changed documents, and documents and records and smoking gun admissions to prove Plaintiff’s claims
Allocation of Fault: N/A
Insurance Carrier: N/A
Attorney for Plaintiff: Tom R. Pabst, Michael A. Kowalko and Jarrett M. Pabst, with great assistance from Legal Assistant Katie Lyon
Attorney for Defendants: withheld – he didn’t lose the case, Defendants’ altered documents and smoking gun admissions won the case for Plaintiff