Correction, 11:15 a.m.: Mike Lyons was not involved in the discussion of the legal settlement, he said.
NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to settle a lawsuit.
Although the Board did not specify what lawsuit, there’s ample reason to believe that they plan to settle the lawsuit filed by former Special Education Director Christina Fensore against former BoE Chairman Mike Lyons.
Chairman Mike Barbis did not deny that the Board was settling the Fensore lawsuit. “We are settling a legal case and I think you know what it is,” he said.
He did not say what the settlement would be but said it would cost less money than going to court.
It’s been rumored that the Board was going to vote on a settlement with Fensore, who accused Lyons of defamation of character. The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting called for an executive session as the last order of business to address “personnel matters and litigation.”
A vote was not specified on the agenda. The Board voted to suspend the rules to allow for a vote, in conformance with the Freedom of Information Act.
The Board’s executive session lasted more than 40 minutes, behind closed doors.
Lyons was not present for the vote.
The case is scheduled for a pretrial conference Tuesday. Settling will cost Norwalk “A little bit of money,” Barbis said.
Fensore’s lawyers suggested the settlement, Barbis said, indicating that it’s a done deal. There are no conditions, he said.
Again, the settlement is less than going to trial, according to Barbis. Asked how much a trial would cost, Barbis said, “We were given a range of numbers. We were told a minimum of $150,000, maybe as much as $250,000.”
“If we went to trial we would still be out that money,” Barbis said.
Fensore left Norwalk Public Schools on June 30, 2015. In August 2015, Lyons emailed Fensore’s new employers to allege that she left NPS with “undisclosed liabilities in our SPED department of between $1 million and $2 million upon her departure,” and say, “I suggest that you monitor SPED expenditures very carefully to make sure something like this doesn’t happen to you.”
Barbis urged Lyons to send the email, court documents show.
Lyons also left multiple comments online assigning Fensore the blame for Special Education cost overruns, referring in one case to the “stunning extent to which almost everything we had been told had been untrue.”
Lyons was sued as a private citizen and has been defended at the Board’s expense by Shipman & Goodwin, the firm hired by the Board.
Legal bills in the case had amounted to more than $160,000 in mid-October, NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams said at the time.