By Philip Haldiman
Peoria is settling a lawsuit in which a woman alleged she was molested while a participant in the city’s before- and after-school program in 2005.
The city is paying $325,000 to the plaintiff, whose name was not revealed because she was a minor at the time of the incident.
The plaintiff initially requested $5 million to settle the dispute.
Documents state the alleged incident occurred when the woman was in second and third grades and enrolled in Peoria’s AM/PM program, which serves elementary school children throughout the city.
The woman alleged negligent training and negligent supervision claims, as well as a violation of her constitutional rights against the city and the Peoria Unified School District, which, she claimed, resulted in her molestation by an individual who was an employee of the city and the district.
The woman alleges she was molested by Mark Johnstone, a former groundskeeper at Cheyenne Elementary School and a part-time city recreation worker, who is serving a 19-year sentence for the sexual assaults of other young girls, according to a court document.
Ms. Stein said the plaintiff in this case never filed a police report or pursued criminal charges against Mr. Johnstone.
The out-of-court settlement focused on alleged negligent training and negligent supervision claims against the city and school district, Ms Stein said.
The AM/PM program has been in operation for 20 years and follows the rules and regulations of the Department of Health Services-Childcare Licensing, as well as Peoria policies and procedures.
Ms. Stein said all employees were required at that time — and will continue to be required — to have a background check, a Class One Fingerprint card from AZ Department of Public Safety, references checks and 18 hours of annual training per employee. She said the program continues to grow and evolve in all areas and its goal is to provide a safe, secure and fun environment for all participants.
Ms. Stein said that given the private and sensitive nature of the allegations and the fact that the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the alleged molestation, the city cannot disclose further details.
PUSD spokeswoman Danielle Airey said the district is unable to violate the terms of the confidentiality agreement, and would not provide details on the settlement or the identities of the former students.
“We have a strong partnership with the city of Peoria, which includes parallel, high standards for safety. The district reviews our procedures annually to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps to support the safety and well-being of all students,” Ms. Airey said in a statement.
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.
Paying out of court
The Peoria City Council voted to settle the $325,000 AM/PM lawsuit, June 4. During that public meeting the council also approved a budget amendment in the amount of $150,000 to provide the spending authority needed to pay claims expenditures that were not anticipated when the original fiscal year 2019 budget was adopted. Here is a breakdown of the city’s out-of-court settlements from fiscal years 2014 to 2018.
Expenditures: $1.6 million
Annual average: 28 claims at $11,792 each and $327,830 per year.