Note: This story was updated on Sunday, January 10 to include information released by the Village of Downers Grove under the Freedom of Information Act.
On Wednesday, January 6, the Village of Downers Grove settled the lawsuit brought against it by former Village Manager Cara Pavlicek. Pavlicek, who was fired by the Village on May 20, 2008, had filed suit claiming breach of contract and that her termination violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
On Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the Village’s outside counsel John Murphey moved for a dismissal of the case and the court agreed in part, dismissing the count of Pavlicek’s suit that alleged the violation of the Wage Payment and Collection Act. Shortly thereafter, the parties worked towards a settlement agreement, allowing the case to be dismissed.
“The decision to settle was mutual and based upon the best interests of all involved. The Council was especially mindful of its duties to be good stewards of tax dollars and acted accordingly.” Mayor Ron Sandack told the Chronicle. “The court determined there was no violation of the WPCA. However, continuing the case to trial would have meant further expenditures and attorneys’ fees and the continued disruption on our staff. It made financial and managerial sense to settle after the court’s ruling on December 8th.”
The settlement agreement, dated December 21, 2009, allowed for the dismissal of the lawsuit “with prejudice” by Pavlicek. In addition to agreeing to “not publicly disparage one another”, it states “In consideration of Pavlicek’s dismissal of the Lawsuit, the Village agrees to pay Pavlicek the sum of Seventy-three Thousand Dollars ($73,000.00). The settlement check shall be made payable jointly to plaintiff and her attorneys Freeborn & Peters, and will be delivered to plaintiff’s attorney on January 6, 2010. Proceeds from the settlement will first be considered as reimbursement of the expenses incurred by Pavlicek in connection with the Lawsuit.” It also provides for a written reference on Village letterhead, and a complete mutual release from all future claims.
Pavlicek had asked for one year of pay and attorney fees and court costs which, had the judge not dismissed the WPCA violation count of her suit, she would have been entitled to had she prevailed in court.
Pavlicek began as Village Manager on November 14, 2005 and was fired May 20, 2008. After she filed suit the on September 2, 2008, the Village issued the following statement, “…It was unanimously determined by the Village Council that there were ample grounds to terminate her employment for cause, and without any severance payment, for failure to comply with provisions of the employment agreement and the Village’s municipal code. The Village is deeply disappointed that its efforts to reasonably resolve this dispute with former Village Manager Cara Pavlicek were unsuccessful, and that Ms. Pavlicek chose to initiate litigation. However, the Village stands firm in its positions and denies that Ms. Pavlicek is entitled to any further compensation under her employment agreement, or otherwise.”
In Mayor Sandack’s affidavit to the court dated November 5, 2009, he spells out a disintegrating relationship between Pavlicek and the Village attorney’s office, as well detailing the “concerns with Ms. Pavlicek’s recalcitrance in the face of clear, explicit directions to her that there would be enhanced communications directly between the Manager and the Village Attorney, and the Village Attorney and the various department heads.” Additionally, there were “..three additional matters where Ms. Pavlicek appeared to have exceeded her unilateral spending authority.” Sandack states, which were brought to the Council’s attention by the Village Attorney. These issues, he adds, “caused me to lose confidence in the ability of Ms. Pavlicek to fully and faithfully perform the duties of Village Manager consistent with the policy directives of the Village Council.” Commissioners Tully, Beckman, Neustadt and Durkin also provided affidavits in which all stated a loss of trust and confidence in Pavlicek. The Council decision to terminate Pavlicek was unanimous.
Pavlicek is currently employed by the City of Oak Park as the Parking Manager. Pavlicek did not respond to a request for comment on this story.