Former councilwoman sues Gary School Corp. over firing
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ email@example.com October 1, 2013 11:25PM
Stephanie Dowell/Post-Tribune Ragen Hatcher, At-Large councilwoman, atttends a Gary City Council meeting November 5, 2008.
Updated: November 3, 2013 6:28AM
Former Gary City Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher is suing the Gary School Corp., saying the School Board improperly fired her in 2011 because of political retaliation by then-President Darren Washington.
According to her lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Washington asked Hatcher, who was then running for mayor of Gary, several times to appoint him as her deputy mayor if she won the election. The suit does not name Washington as a defendant.
Washington, Hatcher and representatives for the district could not be reached for comment.
Ragen Hatcher, the daughter of former Mayor Richard Hatcher, began working as an in-house attorney for the school district in July 2007. The suit claims Washington, who no longer serves on the board, first approached her in November 2010, after she had announced her candidacy, about the position of deputy mayor. Hatcher told him she would consider it.
He asked again in February 2011, this time in front of other, undisclosed people, and she again told him she would consider it.
Hatcher was told that June to stop coming to board meetings and then was notified in August that she had been fired, a month after Washington took over as board president.
The lawsuit says the board illegally voted to fire her during a closed-door meeting, which violates Indiana’s law regarding public meetings and that the three board members, including now-President Rosie Washington, who did not support Hatcher’s firing said at the time that it was for political reasons.
Post-Tribune records show that Kenneth Stalling, who is no longer on the board, expressed concern about the possibility of future contracts going to Darren Washington’s friends and family and that Darren Washington kept Rosie Washington from speaking more on the matter by calling for a vote.
Barbara Leek, who is also no longer on the board, said at the time that the firing was because of budget cuts and that the district needed to save money.
Leek declined to comment on pending litigation.
However, Hatcher claims in her suit that the district now pays an outside legal firm $225,000, more than double the $85,000 that Hatcher made. She is asking for front and back pay, along with legal fees and an injunction forcing the board to comply with Indiana law.