STOW — A court has ruled in favor of Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools in a lawsuit by a former treasurer, who claimed the district owed her pay for accumulated sick leave and vacation time.
Catherine M. Bulgrin, who worked as the district's treasurer from 2011 to 2015, claimed the district owed her payment for accrued vacation and sick leave as agreed to in a November 2015 voluntary resignation and settlement agreement. Bulgrin alleged she was owed $25,748.40 in accrued vacation and $12,874.20 in accrued sick benefits. The district in an earlier court filing had contended that she was "not entitled to any relief under the terms of the settlement."
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Susan Baker Ross ruled that "the court finds that it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts" that would entitle her to the pay.
Jack Morrison Jr. of Amer Cunningham Co. in Akron, Bulgrin's legal representative, could not be reached for comment by press time. Neither school district officials nor their legal representatives could be reached as of press time.
According to the Oct. 25 court order, Bulgrin was employed under contract with the school district from Aug. 1, 2011 through July 31, 2016. Bulgrin and the school district entered into a resignation and settlement agreement on Nov. 5, 2015, in which Bulgrin claimed "that upon the expiration of the employment contract, the [November 2015] agreement" allowed her to "utilize 416 days of vacation and sick leave." The district denied this claim, stating that Bulgrin "was entitled to use her earned vacation and sick leave benefits after Aug. 1, 2016," which amounted to 416 days. The court record states that, according to the school district, Bulgrin "was compensated for her vacation and sick leave accrued up through July 31, 2016, and was no longer employed," and that the November 2015 agreement prevented Bulgrin "from accruing vacation and sick time after July 31, 2016."
Bulgrin argued that the "pertinent contractual terms are conflicting and ambiguous…" according to court records.
In her ruling, Ross stated that the terms of the contract "are not conflicting." The ruling states that Bulgrin "shall receive 416 sick leave or vacation leave days after Aug. 1, 2016. Additionally, as she is paid for these days, [Bulgrin] waived the accrual of sick days and the accrual, carry over, or payment for vacation days."
"The intent of the parties encapsulated in the agreement was to end their potential disputes, and to fully set forth the financial remunerations plaintiff was to receive," the ruling states. "To argue that the plaintiff continued to accrue sick and vacation leave is wholly inapposite to that intent."
Bulgrin filed the breach of contract claim in March. A mediation was conducted in September but was unsuccessful.
Bulgrin was placed on unpaid suspension in February 2015, after the board voted the previous month to give notice that it did not intend to renew her contract when it expired July 31, 2016. The Ohio Revised Code requires districts to inform a treasurer on or before March 1 of the year the contract expires if it does not intend to re-employ that individual.
The resignation and settlement agreement for Bulgrin was approved by the Board of Education in November 2015.
Obtained in November 2015 by the Stow Sentry with the consent of Christine Faranda — one of Bulgrin’s attorneys — the agreement states Bulgrin would be paid her salary through the expiration date of July 31, 2016, including some of the fringe benefits outlined in her employment agreement.
According to information from the district’s payroll department, Bulgrin’s salary for the 2014-15 fiscal year was $95,619.42 plus a $15,000 stipend.
In addition, she was to be given a $100,000 payment, and at the completion of her contract, she will "utilize her vacation and sick leave benefits consecutively, totaling 416 days."
During those 416 days, she would not be paid fringe benefits except "sick leave, vacation leave, health and life insurance and SERS earned service credit," according to Faranda.
Editor’s note: Local editor Marsha McKenna contributed to this story.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, email@example.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC