The Durant Community School District has paid $45,923.45 to a Davenport law firm to fight its three-year legal battle against newly restored high school principal Monica Rouse, a lawyer with the firm said.
Cameron Davidson, a lawyer with Lane & Waterman, responded to a Quad-City Times’ Freedom of Information Act request, saying the amount reflects what the school district paid his firm from 2009 through June 2012.
Davidson said he responded to the request on behalf of his client, a public school district. He added he cannot release billing information for Employers Mutual Co., a private business providing insurance for the school district. He said the district has met its $5,000 deductible.
“What’s been paid by insurance is not public,” Davidson said. “I don’t believe the district has any record regarding what the insurance has paid. It has coverage for its legal expenses, and the legal expenses have been paid.”
Lesa Kephart, business manager for the school district, declined to be interviewed.
Rouse, who was escorted from school grounds Sept. 17, 2009, and terminated six months later, returned to her old post Tuesday after an appeal on her case went all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court. A district judge last week threatened the school board with jail time if it didn’t follow a court order to fully restore Rouse to her previous job.
The appeals were filed by lawyers for the school district, and at a cost not covered by insurance, Davidson said. The cost to file the appeals is included in the $45,923.45, he said.
Lawyers on both sides also have filed countless petitions and motions. Rouse’s petition for judicial review, filed April 20, 2010, in Cedar County District Court, has at least 40 motions attached to its case docket, online court records show. It was this petition that ultimately was challenged to the Supreme Court and decided in Rouse’s favor.
A total of 12 different petitions have been filed over the three years with about 50 or so motions in each case, according to Rouse’s attorney, Cathy Cartee of Davenport.
“I will give you my best estimate on the filings, but it was well over 100, probably closer to 500 different motions and filings,” Cartee said.
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She added that 6,000 pages of exhibits and documents were sent to the Supreme Court.
Cartee said she did not wish to disclose at this time how much Rouse owes in legal fees. Rouse has a libel lawsuit still pending against the school board and seeks damages of an undetermined value.
The school board hired Matt Kingsbury for the 2010-11 school year after it terminated Rouse. When Kingsbury resigned, the board hired Tony Neumann for the 2011-12 school year while the board was appealing a district court’s decision to reinstate Rouse.
Rouse returned to the school of 250 students a few months after the district court’s decision in March 2011 and agreed she would stay home and receive her $81,000 annual salary plus benefits.
She returned to work again after the Supreme Court’s decision this year, only to work for several months out of an empty storage room in the elementary school wing. Meanwhile, the school board rehired Neumann for the 2012-13 year. The school board decided Monday night to make him co-principal of the K-8 program and keep Rouse as the high school’s sole principal.
The combined annual salaries of the two high school principals has cost the district at least $155,000. Now the district has two K-8 principals. Their combined annual salaries were not available.