There is a well-deserved buzz surrounding the lawsuit that lead plaintiffs Rebecca Cartee-Haring and Dawn Marinello started. This suit is an evolving attempt to collect significant millions from the Central Bucks district. If successful, it will have repercussions for all taxpayers, especially those on fixed incomes.
Mrs. Haring is a frequent flier of lawsuits against our district; the first one was over her $8,000-a-year lacrosse coaching job at CB West. Her contract was not reinstated. She sued and wanted to settle for an eye-popping $750,000. Ms. Cartee-Haring has left two other coaching jobs since.
There is also the matter of the cease-and-desist email from the Central Bucks West principal. Both Rebecca Cartee-Haring and her husband, Rick Haring, received this and were ordered to stay away from the coaching staff. But that is another entire story.
READ MORE — Tempers flare at Central Bucks School Board meeting
The current lawsuit is over “equal pay.” A settlement proposal of $119 million was offered by the Cartee-Haring lawyer, Ed Mazurek, on Sept. 1. As taxpayers, we should look to other legal experts to judge the validity of settling this case. Mr. Mazurek is himself slated to make $25–$37 million with this settlement.
Mike Levin, a legal representative for the entire Pennsylvania School Board Association, whom the district has engaged to represent them, has publicly advised our board not to settle. Mr. Levin stated clearly at the Sept. 12 board meeting that the case has no merit. But if the district did settle, the way to pay for this was laid out at that board meeting (starts at minute 16:45, https://vimeo.com/863944425). The board majority agrees and has stated it will not settle.
To complicate matters even more, Mrs. Cartee-Haring’s husband, Rick Haring, is running for a seat on the Central Bucks School Board. Rick Haring has made it clear on his social media posts that he would not recuse himself from the collective action lawsuit. This is a clear conflict of interest, as his family stands to benefit financially from any settlement, while the district and taxpayers stand in harm’s way.
How much harm? As noted by the district’s counsel, to pay the $119 million settlement asked for by Cartee-Haring’s lawyer, Central Bucks would have to raise taxes or levy massive cuts in staff and services.
Mrs. Cartee-Haring publicly suggested that Central Bucks could sell real estate to avoid tax increases or staff/service cuts. How many schools and athletic fields would need to be closed and sold? Perhaps builders would pay handsomely for school property around Tohickon Middle School? Plumstead is a very desirable area to build. How about Linden? By a 9–0 vote, this board saved it from closing. Would that be on the sell list? But would that even begin to pay for this settlement?
Incumbent and candidate board member Karen Smith has also hinted on her social media that she is open to a settlement, thus discounting the legal advice of Mr. Levin. Worse yet, she minimizes the district’s ability to pay.
You don’t need to be a “math person” to know the Cartee-Haring lawsuit has taxpayers on the hook.
Taxpayers must ask why she is so cavalier with our district’s funds. Central Bucks settling this lawsuit for $119 million could mean building closures as well as cuts in arts, sports, special needs services, support staff, and more. She should respond to Haring’s claim that selling real estate will avoid the massive tax increase.
CB Forward Candidates were offered an opportunity to meet with Cartee-Haring’s lawyer and refused. Rick Haring’s running mates Heather Reynolds, Susan Gibson, Karen Smith, and Dana Foley should be asked: Did they meet with Mr. Mazurek? Do they, like Mrs. Smith, believe that CBSD should disregard the advice of counsel and settle the case? How do they envision paying the lump sum of $119 million?
For months, our local media has trumpeted $1.3 million to investigate and refute the assertions that our teachers and administrators ignored bullying of LGBT students. Insurance will cover the majority of this but will not cover any of the $119 million settlement demanded by Rick Haring’s wife, her lawyer, and co-plaintiffs. You don’t need to be a “math person” to know the Cartee-Haring lawsuit has taxpayers on the hook for over 100 times what was used to defend our district against serious charges.
It’s incredible that no local media outlet is asking these questions. The local media should cover and report on this significant lawsuit and its merits, and taxpayers should inquire of all Central Bucks School Board candidates and incumbents about the nature of their interactions with the lead plaintiff and attorney in a case that is likely to cost our students, taxpayers, and district money. Instead, we as a community are left to argue about it on Facebook or NextDoor.
Where are the unbiased editors and reporters that will take up this challenge?
Update: The original headline to this article was changed as reading “over $100 million dollars” to “$119 million dollars.”
Howard Schargel has been a resident and taxpayer in Plumstead Township in Bucks County for 25 years. He and his wife have had three children in the Central Bucks School District.