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Levasseur to represent school district in ex-school chief's lawsuit

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 25. 2017 11:50PM
Alderman At-Large and attorney Joseph Kelly Levasseur, left, will represent the Manchester School District "free of charge" in a lawsuit filed by former school superintendent Dr. Debra Livingston, right. 

MANCHESTER — City school board members voted Monday night to accept an offer from Alderman At-Large and attorney Joseph Kelly Levasseur to represent the district “free of charge” in a lawsuit filed by former school superintendent Dr. Debra Livingston.

Livingston is suing the school district for $590.50 after school board members and her successor, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas, wouldn’t pay her for 5.5 hours of work for an arbitration case after she left the district, according to public records.

Livingston, who retired last October, filed her complaint in small claims court after the school board refused to pay for her time, according to court documents.

“At no time was I informed by you that you would request unpaid service after my retirement,” Livingston wrote the school board on June 21. “I simply responded to a reasonable request for service for which I expect reasonable compensation.”

On Aug. 14, the school board agreed “to pay meals and mileage to Dr. Livingston in accordance with school district policies and procedures,” according to draft minutes of that meeting.

The board voted 9-5 with one abstention.

Livingston, however, didn’t claim meals or mileage, but wanted to be paid for 5.5 hours at a rate of $91 an hour, according to an invoice included in the agenda for the Aug. 14 meeting. Her court complaint also is seeking the $90 filing fee.

On Monday, school board Vice Chairman Art Beaudry said Levasseur had offered to represent the district for free in the lawsuit, saying the only potential cost to schools would be $590.50 if they were made to pay.

“I would hate to see the school board and taxpayers have to pay attorney fees to defend what looks like a frivolous case, especially because the board couldn’t come up with five grand for middle school soccer, so they must not have any left,” said Levasseur.

Several school board members were happy to take up Levasseur on his offer.

“I think this is an opportunity to defend this without taking any money away from our students,” said Ward 10’s John Avard.

“Thank you Alderman Levasseur,” said Mary Georges of Ward 3. “It’s just a claim for a little bit of money — why would we say no to someone who would do it for free?”

“I’m concerned about a conflict of interest, based on some of the lovely compliments we’ve received from Alderman Levasseur,” said Dan Bergeron of Ward 6.

Board members voted 10-1 to accept Levasseur’s legal representation free of charge, with Bergeron opposed. Erika Connors, Connie Van Houten and Nancy Tessier abstained, while Katie Desrochers was absent.

Livingston’s invoice asked for 5.5 hours of pay: a half-hour for preparation with an attorney on April 27 and five hours for “travel and testimony” for an arbitration case May 2.

The school district has until Oct. 16 to file a response in court.

Education Courts Local and County Government Manchester

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