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Article updated: 10/21/2011 5:33 PM

Geneva schools' eavesdropping case still alive

Margaret Pennington

Margaret Pennington

 
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A judge Friday refused to dismiss a lawsuit charging a former Geneva school principal with illegal eavesdropping.

Kane County Circuit Judge Thomas Mueller disagreed with defense attorney Andrew Staes' contention the case should be dismissed so as to not waste judicial time and resources, because defendant Margaret Pennington is suing the Geneva school district on an age discrimination claim in federal court and the two cases could be combined there.

Staes also argued the state case should be dismissed because the school district could use the eavesdropping charge as part of its defense in the federal case, and that the state case should be dismissed or stayed because an appeal regarding the constitutionality of Illinois' eavesdropping law has been filed with the Illinois Supreme Court.

"The case is little enough it ought to be litigated one time, not two," Staes said.

Pennington was principal of Heartland Elementary School in 2008-09, and coordinator of special projects and resource procurement in 2009-10. Her contract was not renewed. The suit alleges Pennington asked five times in 2009 and 2010 to audio-record meetings with two supervisors. On another occasion, she notified the supervisors she would be recording meetings between the three of them and would provide them with digital copies. 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 alleges she recorded a meeting with her supervisors Nov. 13, 2009. The district wants Mueller to order her to say if she has copies of the recordings and, if so, to destroy them.

Pennington, 52, has accused the district of age discrimination. She said in her federal suit the district offered her less pay than two other elementary school principals hired at the same time as her. Both were men, and both were younger and less experienced than her, according to the suit. When she asked for equal treatment, she alleges the district offered to raise her pay in exchange for her not receiving health insurance. She later learned the other principals received health insurance.

Mueller noted the eavesdropping case being appealed involves a criminal charge, and any decision in that case may be irrelevant to the civil case.

After the ruling, Staes said he intends to file another motion to dismiss, on the grounds the state's eavesdropping law is unconstitutional.

The next federal court date is Dec. 2, and the next Kane court date Jan. 18, 2012.

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