Ex-SD 159 employee sues district for $1M-plus
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org August 3, 2012 10:56AM
Traycee Fox, a former School District 159 employee, stands in front of the district headquarters along Vollmer Road in Matteson on March 9, 2012. She filed complaints claiming she was fired because she blew the whistle on a district employee. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:17AM
A woman who claims she was fired by Matteson School District 159 after telling the superintendent an assistant was misappropriating money is suing the district for more than $1 million.
Traycee Fox, of Matteson, a former payroll clerk, also claims in the lawsuit that school board president Eliot Johnson sexually harassed her when she tried to discuss the situation with him, a claim Johnson denies.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, claims that Fox told Supt. Barbara Mason in May 2010 about an “apparent misappropriation of funds” by Mason’s assistant, Patricia Brewer. Mason threatened to fire Fox if word got out about the money, according to the lawsuit.
Fox was fired in September 2011 after two years as payroll clerk.
The SouthtownStar reported in February that records show that Brewer, of Matteson, and her son Michael Brewer were paid about $32,000 for work the district cannot account for. Both were fired in June 2010, records show. Neither has been charged with a crime.
The lawsuit says Mason also told Fox to give a school principal a duplicate check, in effect paying him twice. It also alleges that former business manager Melody Ellington increased administrators’ car allowances to more than the monthly $500 stipend, among other allegations.
Due to Mason’s threat to fire her, Fox turned to Johnson for help, according to the lawsuit, which claims Johnson touched her hands and thigh, asked her to travel to his office in Chicago and his Washington, D.C., apartment and sent her text messages that indicated the two were “destined to have a special relationship.”
Fox also claims in the lawsuit that Johnson told her she was going to fall in love with him.
Johnson on Thursday denied that he sexually harassed Fox.
He defined the would-be “special relationship” as an offer to help her get a job where he often works in Washington.
“I think Mrs. Fox is trying to get paid, in layman’s terms,” Johnson said. “It’s a little bogus. It’s an individual who felt she was treated unfairly and is being vindictive and wants to do damage to the school district and people who are associated with it.”
Fox’s attorney, William Moore, said the intent of the lawsuit isn’t to damage the district but to put Fox “back in a good place.”
“Especially in this economy, no one wants to be out of work,” Moore said.