Waukee Community School District to pay $1 million to settle retaliation lawsuit

Local News

WAUKEE — $150,000 in taxpayer money will be spent as part of a $1 million settlement between the Waukee Community School District and a former administrative assistant.

Amy Patters worked as an administrative assistant with the district, and alleged in a 2018 lawsuit that her actions to report “mismanagement, gross abuses of funds, and abuses of authority” by the district’s former COO Eric Rose were met with termination and retaliation.

“After Plaintiff’s interviews with internal investigators and the Waukee Police Department, Eric Rose and [Chief Financial Officer] Lora Appenzeller-Miller initiated and pursued a campaign of reprisals, intimidation, and retaliation against the Plaintiff for reporting the misconduct of Eric Rose,” the lawsuit reads.

A December 2018 state audit report detailed over $130,000 in expenditures between 2013 and 2017 “which were not in the best interest of taxpayers”, including $27,903.01 for lounge chairs and furniture.

Appenzeller-Miller resigned from the district in June 2018.

According to the report, Waukee police began an investigation into Rose regarding the potential misappropriation of funds and possible fraudulent activity involving Rose. In March 2017, the investigation by the Police Department concluded Mr. Rose committed illegal acts; however, according to the County Attorney, there was insufficient evidence to obtain a criminal conviction and no criminal charges were filed.

Rose resigned from his position and was charged with two felonies a few days after the report was released.

Two lawsuits filed by Patters—one for wrongful termination and retaliation and another alleging the district violated Iowa open meeting laws—will be resolved in Dallas County Court with a $1 million lawsuit, the district confirmed to Local 5.

“Amy Patters will receive payment of $1,000,000 within three weeks of signing the release,” the Waukee Community School District said in a statement. “The Waukee Community School District will pay $150,000 and its insurer EMC will pay $850,000.”

Both lawsuits will be dismissed with prejudice, and Patters will sign a global release of claims.

A November 5 court hearing has been scheduled to finalize the school district’s motion for summary judgment.

The district made several changes as a result of the audit:

CELL PHONES

• Staff with district-issued phones can either purchase them as their own and pay the bill or turn them in and use their own phone and receive a stipend.

PURCHASES

• Purchase Orders are required now before any purchases are made

• Itemized receipts now required for all expense reports. If an employee does not have a receipt, he or she pays the bill.

• Must get approval for any technology purchases ahead of time

• Only the School Board President can sign contracts

MEAL ALLOWANCES

• Employees can receive $40/ day in-state; $60/day out-of-state

The Waukee Community School District issued the following statement to Local 5 regarding the settlement:

The District, in consultation with its insurance carrier, has balanced a number of factors and has decided this settlement is in the best long-term interests of the District. While the District acknowledges the importance of the past, just as important is the ability to learn from the past and move forward in an intentional manner.

This work has already begun by providing additional training for our staff, putting people at the center of what we do, and fostering a culture of integrity with leadership in place to effectively take the District in a positive direction. Our District has a lot of new and exciting things ahead of it and we look forward to a renewed focus on those things and the District’s overall mission of providing a high-quality educational experience to all of our students.

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