School Nepotism Lawsuit Moves Forward After Court Rules For Taxpayer

Appellate Judge says resident has standing to sue school board. Repayment of more than $100,000 is sought for package that a south suburban board member voted to give his wife.

<p>File photo of Bridget Imoukhuede, left, and Emmanuel Imoukhuede</p>

A lawsuit to recoup more than $100,000 in back pay and attorney fees from a former south suburban high school administrator caught up in a nepotism scandal will move forward after a state appeals court ruled in favor of a taxpayer plaintiff.

The ruling reverses a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s decision to dismiss the suit Olympia Fields resident Fred Veazey filed against Rich Township High School District 227 in July 2014, saying the plaintiff didn’t have legal standing to sue.

But in a unanimous decision, the three-member 1st District Appellate Court disagreed and ruled that Veazey can sue and that the suit should go forward.

“Taxpayers may have standing to sue either in their personal capacity as taxpayers or derivatively on behalf of a local governmental unit,” Judge Mary Anne Mason wrote in the appellate court’s July 20 opinion.

Veazy’s attorney, Clinton Krislov of the Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Center for Open Government, said that the ruling shows the “importance of the taxpayer action to enforce government accountability and transparency.”

The lawsuit sought repayment of the money former board member Emmanuel Imoukhuede voted to award his wife, former associate principal Bridget Imoukhuede. In the suit, Veazey cited the school system’s anti-nepotism policy.

In 2014, the District 227 board awarded former associate principal Bridget Imoukhuede lost income and attorney fees as part of a retirement dispute. Her husband, Emmanuel Imoukhuede, cast the deciding vote for the package.

The next month, the board voted along the same lines to pay Bridget Imoukhuede $109,792 in back salary for the 2013-2014 school year and $34,932 for attorney fees.Veazey's suit seeks to recover $116,353 in back salary and attorney fees.

In April 2015, Emmanuel Imoukhuede lost re-election and a new District 227 board was sworn in. The following month, the district filed a motion in support of the Veazey case with the appellate court, and filed a separate suit against the Imoukhuedes in Cook County Circuit Court. The District 227 case is pending.