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Settlement likely in Pennington eavesdropping case

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 1:23 p.m. CST

GENEVA – The Geneva School District 304 board voted to authorize a settlement in an ongoing legal dispute with former employee Margaret Pennington.

The board voted in open session after a closed meeting late Monday.

School officials would not return messages seeking comment, but referred questions to attorney James Petrungaro. Petrungaro said the settlement still is in the process and is intended to resolve the lawsuits between the board and Pennington. 

“Once it is settled, both cases will be withdrawn,” Petrungaro said. “It has not been completely finalized.”

Petrungaro said he expected the settlement agreement to be completed in the next week.

Neither Pennington nor her attorney returned messages seeking comment.

The district sued Pennington in 2011, seeking more than $100,000 in damages from her on behalf of two of its assistant superintendents as well as the district. 

The lawsuit charged that Pennington tape-recorded meetings despite being told not to. 

In February, Kane County Circuit Court Judge David Akemann dismissed the district’s case, saying the state’s eavesdropping law is unconstitutional. Akemann’s ruling did not allow the district to file another charge on the same claim.

Pennington sued the district in federal court, alleging age and gender discrimination as they tried to intimidate her from pursuing discrimination complaints. Her complaint sought $75,000 in damages, according to court records

Pennington was principal at Heartland Elementary School for the 2008-09 school year. She was reassigned as coordinator of special projects for the district for the 2009-10 school year, then terminated in June 2010, according to the lawsuit. 

When Pennington's claim was filed in 2011, Petrungaro had said her claims were “patently false.”

In 2011, a federal judge ruled in favor of the district’s motion to dismiss her lawsuit, but gave Pennington leave to file an amended complaint. As the case continued, court records show both sides had agreed to a settlement “in principle.” A status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18.

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