Clarkstown teacher Cathleen (Cathy) Malgieri filed a lawsuit against Clarkstown School Board Member Donna Ehrenberg alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of her right of free speech, interference with her employment contract and violation of civil service law. The lawsuit filed in Rockland County Supreme Court on Friday, March 23 charges Ehrenberg with violating school board policy and seeks undisclosed monetary damages.
In the first complaint, Malgieri claims “Tortious interference with contract.” Malgieri alleges that Ehrenberg of New City approached the principal of Woodglen Elementary School, who was being considered for tenure, and began lodging complaints about Malgieri, who had taught special education there for 12 years.
The principal, Lisa Maher, was awarded tenure in mid February.
In July 2011, Malgieri learned of “substantial changes made to her teaching position.” She would lose her teaching assistant, be moved to another grade level and removed from the “Read 180” program. Malgieri’s lawsuit describes these changes to her teaching position as an “adverse employment action.”
The second complaint of violation of Civil Service Law Section 75-B states Malgieri, who is married to school board member Joe Malgieri, followed district policy and complained directly in May to Superintendent Margaret Keller-Cogan about the pressure Ehrenberg was placing on the principal. Also in May, Malgieri of West Nyack advised her union, the Clarkstown Teachers’ Association, about the situation. The lawsuit contends after a district investigation, Malgieri was reassigned within Woodglen and that action was taken “in retaliation for Malgieri’s reporting of Ehrenberg’s violation of District policy.”
Malgieri’s third complaint states her protected right of free speech was violated by Ehrenberg who engaged in “retaliatory actions” against Malgieri.
As plaintiff, Malgieri’s fourth allegation contends that Ehrenberg, who began serving as a board member in July 2009, began harassing and intimidating her in the fall of that year. That course of action allegedly stemmed from a disagreement between them at a Special Education Parent Teachers Association (SEPTA) meeting.
The lawsuit goes on to list claims that Ehrenberg:
- tried in 2010 to have disciplinary actions taken against Malgieri,
- spoke to Maher directly about Malgieri and spread rumors,
- filed a false police department report on September 16, 2011 claiming threats and/or harassment
- retained an attorney or investigator in January 2012 to contact people about Malgieri.
Claims of emotional distress and emotional upset are being lodged by Malgieri.
“My name has been dragged through the mud and I have been on an emotional roller coaster due to everything that has been happening but more important than the suffering I have undergone I have brought this lawsuit to ensure that no other teacher or staff members in the District will have to go through what I have gone through,” said Malgieri in a statement released by her Attorney Stephen Barry of White Plains. “I also hope that this lawsuit will bring to light some of the things that have gone on in the District and polarized the community. The issue here is accountability not revenge.”
Malgieri’s lawsuit refers to an conducted by a law firm hired by the school board. That report looked into the unauthorized release of a confidential district document. The board voted to seal the report and only release testimony and statements to those who made them. Joe Malgieri said he wanted to release his statement publicly and has asked the board's attorney for a decision on his request.