NORTH ANDOVER — A three-year old lawsuit against North Andover by former school employee Donna Sovie has been settled with Sovie walking away with $6,000.
Sovie, who was fired in 2007, filed suit in Feb. 2008 against the town and former business administrator Stephen Fortado, alleging breach of contract after spending just three months on the job as a payroll coordinator.
Sovie, of Derry, N.H., sought $200,000 and also accused the school district and Fortado of "defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress" based on statements made in an internal memo Fortado wrote to former School Superintendent Dr. Daniel O'Connor.
Sovie signed a settlement agreement for $6,000 in June, and the case was dismissed on July 1. Sovie also bears the burden of any of her own attorney fees.
Andover Attorney James Ackerman, who represented Sovie, declined comment.
Leonard Kesten, of the Boston-based law firm Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLP, represented North Andover and said his firm was ready for a jury trial.
"In my profession I see a lot of claims of wrongful discharge," Kesten said. "People can make legal claims about the facts, but in this case, we were extremely confident."
Kesten said that the school department acted properly in terminating Sovie's contract.
The School Department hired Sovie on an 18-month contract in January 2007. When Fortado took over as business administrator in April, he received numerous complaints that he passed along to O'Connor, who fired Sovie a week after Fortado joined the department.
Several weeks after Sovie was fired, Stephen Fortado, then the interim school business administrator, wrote a memo at the request of O'Connor outlining reasons for Sovie's termination.
In her lawsuit, Sovie disputed the memo's allegations about her job performance, which said Sovie "had a negative attitude, lacked veracity, or was the cause of various payroll issues," according to court documents. The memo accuses Sovie of multiple payroll issues, including not issuing checks, issuing checks for incorrect amounts, and in one instance, issuing checks to someone who asked to receive direct deposit.
She also alleged that the memo was written to provide cover to the School Department because she said it had breached the contract with Sovie.
Last year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings threw out the two charges against Fortado, leaving just the breach of contract count, leveled against the Town of North Andover.
Sovie argued that the contract was breached because her termination required "just cause" as her employment contract was for a definite time period, according to court documents.
A trial was set to start May 9, but the two sides announced they had reached a settlement.
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