Former Superintendent Tacheny's Suit against Kuemper, Diocese Settled

By Butch Heman
Daily Times Herald
March 10, 2009

Former superintendent Thomas Tacheny filed a federal lawsuit against Kuemper Catholic Schools and the Diocese of Sioux City, claiming he was wrongfully fired in March 2007.

The suit, brought in U.S. District Court in Sioux City, has been settled.

Tacheny, who was hired in 2003, was placed on leave in September 2006 amid allegations of inappropriate conduct with a Kuemper student, according to the 28-page, eight-count petition.

The allegation surfaced, Tacheny's lawsuit said, after he tried to comfort an 11th-grade Japanese student upset about not being placed with an area family at the start of the 2006-07 school year. The suit said an unidentified Kuemper faculty member acted as host parent for the student against the school's directives, and the student came to Tacheny "visibly upset ... and crying to the point of being near hysteria" and asked him to take action to change the hosting arrangement.

Tacheny said he was placed on leave Sept. 13, 2006, during a meeting with Kuemper principal Penny Miller and Kevin Vickery, superintendent of the diocesan Office of Catholic Education. A complaint of inappropriate conduct with a student had been signed by the Japanese student's host.

The lawsuit said a five-week investigation by the Carroll Police Department found no basis for allegations of sexual or physical abuse, and that investigators determined the victim wasn't credible, that the victim's statements weren't supported by multiple disinterested witnesses and that the victim had motive for falsely accusing Tacheny.

Tacheny said the Kuemper board of directors sent him a letter two weeks after the police investigation informing him he was being fired for "just cause" related to five unidentified allegations.

Tacheny appealed to the board but was terminated at a meeting Dec. 5, 2006.

The lawsuit said Tacheny further appealed to the Diocesan Board of Education and was heard at a meeting Feb. 6, 2007, at a parish center in Early. Tacheny said the diocesan board concluded that his behavior reflected "at most, a momentary lack of discretion" rather than intentional or careless disregard of proper conduct but that evidence to support termination was lacking. Tacheny said the diocesan board recommended that he be reinstated at Kuemper.

But Bishop R. Walker Nickless overruled the diocesan board in March 2007 and ordered Tacheny's termination, the lawsuit said.

Filed Jan. 17, 2008, the lawsuit named Kuemper Catholic Schools, Bishop Nickless and Vickery as defendants.

Tacheny was suing for an unspecified amount of money for alleged breach of contract, interference with an existing contract, interference with prospective business advantage, defamation by implication, intentional infliction of emotional distress and age discrimination.

In eight counts, Tacheny, who was represented by West Des Moines attorney Patrick Hopkins, alleged:

- The Kuemper board breached the contract by failing to give Tacheny performance evaluations during his first two years at Kuemper and by changing its interpretation of performance requirements in his contract while he was on leave for an unrelated issue.

- The Kuemper board terminated his employment without complying to the terms of the contract.

- The Kuemper board acted to oppress Tacheny and connived to harass and injure him.

- That Vickery's reports to the Kuemper board regarding Tacheny's operation of the school system weren't supported by facts, and they caused the board to breach the contract.

- That Bishop Nickless unilaterally decided against the diocesan board's decision and caused Kuemper to breach the contract.

- That Nickless, Vickery and the diocese interfered with Tacheny's prospective business advantage and caused the Kuemper board to terminate, making any future contact between Tacheny and Kuemper a virtual impossibility.

- That employees of Kuemper or the diocese made public the fact Tacheny had been placed on leave because of allegations of impropriety with a student, that it became common knowledge in the Carroll and Kuemper communities and caused Tacheny to suffer mental anguish and prevented him from finding employment within the Catholic educational community.

- That Tacheny's age was a factor in Kuemper's decision to fire him, causing physical, mental and emotional injury.

In a 13-page answer filed April 14, 2008, Kuemper, Nickless, Vickery and the diocese, who were represented by Sioux City attorneys Maurice Nieland and Michael Ellwanger, denied Tacheny's allegations and asked that the lawsuit be dismissed at his expense.

Each side had demanded a jury trial, and the U.S. District Court Northern District of Iowa had scheduled trial for June 22.

The stipulation of dismissal with prejudice was filed Oct. 22, 2008.

Officials from Kuemper and the Diocese of Sioux City declined to comment on the settlement or disclose its terms.


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