SD 227 board candidate has collected $340K from suing district
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com March 29, 2013 10:30PM
102208/Olympia Fields With paperwork on his lap from his case against Rich Township High School District 227, Komaa Mnyofu speaks about why he has decided to settle. (SouthtownStar/Mary Compton TIN_mnyofu_P3/news)
SD 227 board candidates
There are 10 candidates for four, four-year seats on the Rich Township High School District 227 Board: Antoine Bass, Quintella Bounds, Eddie L. Fisher, Michael A. Holmes, Linda Jenkins, Komaa Mnyofu, David E. Morgan, Betty Owens, Geneka N. Whitaker and Delores Woods.
Morgan and Owens are incumbents. Alyssa Hernandez and Sonya Norwood are not running for re-election.
Updated: May 1, 2013 1:26PM
A man running for a seat on the Rich Township High School District 227 Board has successfully sued the district twice, not only costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees but also collecting $340,000 in settlements, according to documents obtained by the SouthtownStar.
Komaa Mnyofu, 55, of Matteson, also is suing Matteson Elementary School District 162 and the Matteson police department. The latter lawsuit stems from his arrest in December 2010 for trying to collect petition signatures for a District 227 election while he was on private property at Lincoln Mall.
In a deposition he gave in January 2012, Mnyofu said he has been a party to at least 16 lawsuits in his lifetime, including one against two sitting Cook County judges and another against a cop who gave him a traffic ticket in Indiana, according to court records.
His litigious history has some incumbent District 227 board members questioning Mnyofu’s motives to run for a school board seat.
“Everyone has a right to run, but it doesn’t mean they are good candidates,” said board member Sheila Friday, who is not running for re-election. “If I had problems with the district, I’d try to rectify it and not sue it.”
Mnyofu, who changed his name from Tyler Dean Jones in 1998, shrugged off such criticism, saying the federal lawsuits are the answer to correct political wrongs.
“I think people should make of it that I’m a person who is willing to fight for constitutional rights for free speech, that all parents and citizens can come to our board meetings and express their views no matter how contrary they be to the board’s policies,” Mnyofu said. “Any intelligent person looking at the facts wouldn’t come to the decision that I’m a litigious person making a living filing lawsuits.”
His legal issues haven’t affected his relationship with District 227 board member David Morgan, with whom he is friends. Morgan, who is running for re-election in April, created a blog on which Mnyofu frequently has been critical of the district.
“(Mnyofu) is not the enemy,” Morgan said. “He has been portrayed as such. He has a temper but I can understand what has happened with him because it’s happened to me. ... If I had an attorney, I would have sued the school district for having my rights of free speech violated. That’s what courts are for.”
Board member Cheryl Coleman said Mnyofu had good ideas but must work on his approach.
Mnyofu’s most recent lawsuit against District 227 was settled in December for $215,000. Filed in December 2010, it claimed the district kicked Mnyofu out of board meetings when he tried to criticize the selection of Donna Simpson Leak as superintendent. The district also gave him a letter demanding he stop handing out leaflets containing allegations of misconduct by school officials.
Citing a confidentiality agreement, district officials refused to release information on the first lawsuit it settled with Mnyofu in 2008. Mnyofu, however, said in a deposition last year that it resulted in a $125,000 settlement.
That lawsuit, filed in 2003, claimed the district retaliated against him after he objected to the “homosexual safe zones” Rich East High School instituted in 2002. Three-inch, rainbow-colored triangles were put on some classroom doors, symbolizing emotional safety for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and straight students. The lawsuit also claimed that several district officials conspired with Mnyofu‘s ex-wife to prevent him from criticizing the district.
District 227 spent more than $202,000 in legal fees fighting the two lawsuits, records show.
Leak declined to comment about Mnyofu or the suits. But in a deposition for the second lawsuit, she compared him with a “chameleon” who changes his personality to meet the situation.
“I think that he very much believes what he believes, that somehow people are revolving around, conspiring against him,” Leak said in the deposition. “Whether it’s true, he doesn’t connect. He doesn’t connect to that because the facts — my opinion is that he takes the fact, any fact and transitions it to what he believes ... ”
Leak said that Mnyofu will “say things that are indeed false to get it out so that once ... something is out, it’s hard for you to correct.”
Mnyofu also said in a deposition that he sued two of his former employers in Indiana, and an Indiana police officer who wrote him a ticket and arrested him for not having a driver’s license, and sitting Cook County Circuit Court Judges Lisa Murphy and Barbara Meyer in a child custody case, among others. According to records, the case against Murphy and Meyer was dismissed four days after it was filed in September 2011.
Mnyofu currently is involved in lawsuits against the Matteson Police Department and Matteson Elementary School District 162. The lawsuit against the police was filed in December 2011, about a year after he was arrested for disorderly conduct when he refused when asked to leave Lincoln Mall while trying to collect petition signatures. The mall is private property, but Mnyofu claimed he was on a public sidewalk. He is due in court on the case April 15 on the disorderly conduct charge.
Mnyofu also sued Matteson Elementary School District 162, where he was a teacher’s aide until being fired in February 2009. He claims in the lawsuit that District 162 Supt. Blondean Davis signed a false police report against him for disorderly conduct after he challenged his firing.
Mnyofu also claims Matteson police were assigned to tail his children after they got off the bus.
District 162 has spent $28,918 in legal fees fighting Mnyofu’s lawsuit, according to records.
Mnyofu declined to discuss the lawsuits against the elementary school district and the police, claiming they have nothing to do with District 227 voters in the upcoming election.
“I’m not going to speak for people what will or won’t (think about the lawsuits),” Mnyofu said. “I’m going to let voters make the decisions. I’m not going to put my thumb up to the wind to read what the press opinion is.”