Fired employee files lawsuit against Oak Park, alleges fraud
A former human resources employee who was fired by the Village of Oak Park for allegedly taking personal employee information has filed suit against the village, alleging fraud allegations.
In a complaint filed March 23 with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Jacquelyn Jamison said she learned that “monies appeared to be missing from Oak Park’s health insurance fund” and she intended to “use the data as a whistleblower to corroborate and prove her allegations that Oak Park and/or its employees were engaged in a fraud upon the citizens of Oak Park.”
Jamison, who worked for the Village of Oak Park for more than 18 years, was fired in February after allegedly taking personal employee information by sending it to her personal email account.
According to the complaint, in December 2015 Jamison sent data “which she was allowed and required to access as part of her job duties, from her Oak Park work email address to her personal email address,” which she said was “in accordance with Oak Park policies and procedures.” The complaint states Jamison did so to work from home, which she did often.
The Village of Oak Park, however, said Jamison’s actions violated the village’s email policy and, after placing Jamison on paid leave, fired her on Feb. 4.
Attorney Michael Leonard of Leonard Meyer LLP is representing Jamison in the lawsuit, and said the village knew his client intended to be a whistleblower prior to the termination proceedings.
“From our standpoint and her standpoint, it’s a very unfortunate situation,” Leonard said. “She has no interest in being in litigation with the village. They clearly knew based on her allegations and all the facts that there was no basis ever to believe that she was doing anything improper.”
According to a letter the village sent out earlier this year, the personal information of more than 650 current and former village employees was allegedly taken by a former employee, now identified as Jamison.
“It is important to note that we have no indication that the information taken was intended for any illegal use,” Village Manager Cara Pavlicek wrote in the letter. “But since we cannot confirm any authorized reason for the employee to take the information, we are erring on the side of caution and notifying these individuals affected.”
According to the village, Jamison sent copies of three spreadsheets to her home email address. The files contained health insurance information for employees from 2011 through 2014, which included names, Social Security numbers and health insurance benefits.
When reached for comment, village spokesman David Powers said the village’s position is detailed in documents sent to Jamison during the village investigation.
“As a general rule, the village does not comment on pending litigation,” Powers wrote in an email.
According to a Jan. 25 memo obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told Jamison she was being placed on paid leave, pending a hearing scheduled for Jan. 28.
In the memo, it states Jamison is alleged to have “failed on more than one occasion to complete routine and assigned work” regarding the “follow-up contact with employees/former employees/retires in regards to time sensitive materials related to the continuation or cessation of compensation and/or benefits.”
During the hearing, the village asked Jamison to provide access to her personal computer and cellphone in order to conduct a “forensic analysis to determine if [Jamison] had distributed the confidential personal health information to others.” The village said its request was declined.
A village letter dated Feb. 4 from Pavlicek announced that Jamison had been terminated from her role as an executive secretary within the village.
In the letter, Pavlicek wrote Jamison’s “quality of work, consistency of work, accuracy and work adjustment/adaptability are unsatisfactory,” noting Jamison “did not follow through on routine data entry and accounts payable assignments.”
As a result of Jamison’s actions, Pavlicek wrote, “employees of the Village of Oak Park were denied dental insurance coverages, supplemental disability coverages, flexible spending account payments and life insurance coverage for all employees of the Village of Oak Park was canceled effective January 1, 2016.”
Pavlicek also wrote Jamison’s “inactions also put at risk the $50,000 death benefit payment to the family of an active fire fighter of the Village of Oak Park who passed away on January 11, 2016.”
Leonard said he expects the case to head to a status hearing around May, with the hopes the case could go to trial this year.
“Nobody in the world who ever worked with her in the past 20 years would say Jackie would ever hurt the village or its residents,” Leonard said. “She’s not that kind of person. It’s really disheartening.”
Jamison is seeking an amount in excess of $50,000 from the village, as well as her accrued vacation pay of 70 hours and compensatory time in excess of 60 hours.