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updated: 7/14/2011 6:02 AM

Judge: D304 eavesdropping lawsuit can proceed

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  • Margaret Pennington

      Margaret Pennington

 
 

The Geneva school district can proceed with its eavesdropping lawsuit against a former employee.

Kane County Circuit Judge Thomas Mueller Wednesday denied a request to dismiss the case against Margaret Pennington of Geneva.

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The district is suing her to prevent release of recordings she made in meetings with her supervisors in 2009 and 2010. Pennington was principal of Heartland Elementary School from 2008-09, and coordinator of special projects and resource procurement from 2009-10. Her contract was not renewed.

Defense attorney Andrew Staes contended the district could not have suffered damages from her actions; and that since the district owns the computer on which recordings were stored, it has no reason to believe a threat of distribution exists.

Pennington's lawyer also contended the meetings she recorded were not private -- they involved other principals and administrators.

"How is there harm from that when it was said in a big public meeting?" Staes said.

School District 304 attorney James Petrungaro argued the meetings were not public meetings, as defined under the state's Open Meetings Act. That law pertains to meetings of elected officials and committees of elected boards.

Staes said the school district threatened Pennington in a letter about a federal discrimination suit she had filed against it. The letter referred to how Pennington could be charged with a felony in regard to the eavesdropping. No criminal charges have been filed.

"That may be an issue down the road," Mueller said, but wasn't something germane to a motion to dismiss. He ruled against Staes' claim that the statute of limitations on bringing the case had expired.

The suit seeks to compel her to disclose if she has copies of the recordings and, if so, to destroy them. It says that Pennington asked five times in 2009 and 2010 to audio-record meetings with two supervisors. On another occasion, she notified the two that she would be recording meetings between the three of them and would provide them with digital copies of the recording. Both supervisors refused to be recorded.

On Oct. 28, 2009, Pennington recorded a meeting of district administrators and staff without informing any of the people present or getting their consent, according to the lawsuit. The suit also claims she recorded a meeting with her supervisors Nov. 13, 2009.

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