BROOKFIELD Bivona case could go to trial in August
BROOKFIELD — The former Brookfield superintendent and the Board of Education could finally go to trial over the firing of the school chief.
A trial management conference is planned for next Tuesday, while jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 7.
David Monastersky, attorney for the Board of Education, said it is unlikely the suit will be settled before then.
“It’s always possible a case can settle, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in this case,” he said, adding he has not heard from former Superintendent Anthony Bivona’s attorney in some time.
Bivona sued in August 2015 after the Board of Education fired him in October 2014 for poorly overseeing the district’s finances. During Bivona’s tenure, two staff members were accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the schools.
In his suit, Bivona claims he had no knowledge that Art Colley, the former school finance director, had taken money from the student activity fund for his personal use.
Monastersky countered that the district had “just cause” to fire Bivona.
Colley used district money to cover his daughter’s rent and pay off more than $7,000 on his personal credit card, according to court documents. Police also said he paid an unauthorized $10,000 cash severance to a former employee he had fired.
Colley also gave school finance employee at the time, Elizabeth Kerekes, a “side contract” to pay for her college courses and her child’s day care at the Brookfield YMCA.
In a June 2017 filing, Monastersky said it was Bivona’s job to supervise Colley’s work and that the two met frequently to discuss the budget.
“It was the responsibility of the Board’s business manager to conduct the day-to-day managing of the district’s budget, but it was the Superintendent’s responsibility to oversee the process,” the document said.
In January court documents, Bivona’s attorney Peter Goselin argues the board itself thought the superintendent was highly qualified and finished the 2013-14 school year with a surplus because of his leadership. Colley also admitted that he did not tell Bivona about his actions.
Goselin did not return requests for comment.
The board placed Bivona on administrative leave in May 2014 and fired him after several public termination hearings.
A judge last month dismissed Bivona’s claims that the board had acted in “bad faith” when it fired him. In a January court filing, Goselin had said the board had caved to public pressure to sack the superintendent, but the judge said there was no evidence to support this.
Monastersky said jury selection should take two to three days.
Colley and Kerekes were caught after auditors in 2014 found the district had overspent its budget by more than $1 million over two years.
Colley eventually was given a three-year suspended sentence and probation. He was required to contribute $1,000 to the student activity fund and perform 100 hours of community service during those three years.
Meanwhile, Kerekes was granted an accelerated rehabilitation program that required her to repay the district more than $26,000 and keep a clean record for two years, so that her charges could be wiped from her record.
Bivona was hired as superintendent in 2007 after holding the same position in Region 8. Superintendent John Barile took over for Bivona and has stayed at the job since.