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Wahlstrom v. Successline, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 31, 2017

DEBORAH WAHLSTROM, Plaintiff,
v.
SUCCESSLINE, INC., JASON MONK, EDWARD BURLEY, GLENN VOORHESS, JEANINE WALKER, MOUNT CLEMENS COMMUNITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF TRUSTEES, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#38]

          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On November 23, 2015, Plaintiff Deborah Wahlstrom (“Wahlstrom”) filed the instant action for: (1) tortious interference with an advantageous business relationship or expectancy (the “tortious interference claim”), (2) violations of Michigan's Open Meetings Act, and (3) civil conspiracy, all stemming from her termination as Superintendent of the Mount Clemens Community School District (the “District”). In November 2015, Wahlstrom moved for, and the Court granted her, leave to amend her Complaint to add a second Plaintiff, Successline, Inc. (“Successline”). Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint on December 2, 2016. On December 16, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Dkt. No. 38, seeking dismissal of the tortious interference claim with respect to Wahlstrom only. Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment has been fully briefed and the Court held a hearing on February 15, 2017. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is denied.

         II.STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Wahlstrom is the co-owner of Successline, a Virginia corporation that provides educational consultation services. For the time period relevant to this action, Successline's only functions were to provide: (1) the services of Wahlstrom as the Superintendent of the District, and (2) a means for Wahlstrom to receive payment from the District.

         Successline and the District entered a Professional Services Agreement (the “Agreement”) on August 1, 2014. The Agreement was the third 12-month contract that the parties had executed, as the parties had renewed both an initial contract (from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013) and a second contract (from August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014) providing for Wahlstrom's services as Superintendent of the District. The Agreement provided, in part, follows:

1. Employment - Successline Inc. shall provide the services of Deborah Wahlstrom, PhD, (hereinafter “Superintendent”) to perform the normal and customary duties and responsibilities of Superintendent of Schools as well as the Curriculum Leader for the School District. It is expressly understood that the Superintendent is an employee of Successline, Inc.
* * * * *
3. Duties and Responsibilities - The Superintendent further agrees to devote her talents, skills, efforts and abilities toward competently and proficiently fulfilling all duties assigned by the Board of Education. Further, the Superintendent agrees to comply with and fulfill all responsibilities and tasks required by state and federal law and regulations and by the Board of Education to carry out the educational programs and policies of the School District during the entire term of the Contract. Further, the Superintendent pledges to use her best efforts to maintain and improve the quality of the operation of the School District and constantly promote efficiency in all areas of her responsibility.
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6. Length of Contract/Extension - This contract shall commence on August 1, 2014, upon agreement by the Board of Education of the School District and Successline, Inc. and terminate on July 31, 2015. The contract may be extended for additional periods of time as agreed upon by the parties. In the event the contract is not renewed[, ] the Board of Education will provide a ninety (90) calendar day notice. Further, if the decision by the Board of Education, in its sole discretion, is made not to renew the contract and the contract will expire in less than ninety (90) days, the contract will automatically be extended by the number of days equal to ninety (90) days prior to expiration.
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Dkt. No. 38, Ex. B, ¶¶ 1, 3, 6, at PgID 494-95. As Superintendent, Wahlstrom also was “expected to attend meetings of the Board of Education and its committees and to attend and participate in School District functions or, on occasion, other civic activities having relation to the School District, ” without receiving any additional compensation. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. B, ¶ 7, at PgID 496.

         On or about April 13, 2015, Deborah Wahlstrom received an anonymous letter jointly addressed to her, the District's Board of Trustees (the “Board”), the “Mount Clemens High School Administration, ” and Mitch Hotts, a reporter for the Macomb Daily newspaper. This letter sought to “expose some unethical and illegal practices that are taking place at Mount Clemens High School, ” which allegedly included Defendant Jason Monk's management of the Mount Clemens Athletic Booster Club (“Booster Club”), his selling of food from his own restaurant at sporting events under the guise of raising money for the Booster Club, his lack of a permit or license from the City of Mount Clemens or its Health Department to sell such food, and ...


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