South Side Ald. Anthony Beale has taken the unusual step of filing a pre-emptive lawsuit against a former Chicago Public Schools principal who he says sought to extort $1 million from him and made false claims that he sexually harassed her.
The 9th Ward alderman’s suit alleges that an attorney for Dushon A. Brown, formerly the principal at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, sent Beale and his attorney four letters and an e-mail during the past year that included the threat of civil litigation and a request for $1 million in damages.
In the correspondence, Brown’s attorney, Peter Katsaros, accuses Beale of improper sexual conduct and of working with CPS officials to remove her as principal at Brooks.
“I don’t believe it’s a coincidence this letter was sent to me during my congressional campaign, five years after these allegations supposedly occurred,” the alderman said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed Thursday.
“At no time have I ever said or done anything that could be interpreted as sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual conduct. At no time have I ever said or done anything that resulted in Ms. Brown losing her job as principal or thwarted her efforts to find a new job,” he said.
Neither Brown nor her attorney responded Thursday evening and Friday to requests for comment.
By filing the lawsuit, Beale is taking a rare step for a politician of disclosing unflattering allegations that had not been aired in public. The lawsuit was filed after Beale’s attorney, Victor Henderson, said he received a notice from Brown’s attorney this week that within “a few days” Brown intended to file a form charging the Chicago Public Schools with discrimination based on age, gender and retaliation.
The Illinois Department of Human Rights form, an exhibit in Beale’s lawsuit, contains allegations about the alderman’s conduct dating to 2009, and was marked to be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the form, Brown alleges CPS officials retaliated against her for reporting the alleged sexual harassment by filing charges of dismissal against her in June. She said she has been on unpaid suspension from her job as principal since July 19 and is awaiting a disciplinary hearing to learn if she will be fired.
In an email, a CPS spokesman said that Brown was removed as Brooks principal in 2012 pending disciplinary action. The case is ongoing and she is not being paid, the spokesman said.
Henderson said the correspondence from Brown's attorney amounts to “a lot of threats.”
“I think the alderman used the utmost restraint trying to ignore it for a certain amount of time. If there’s a legitimate suit, you would think someone would have filed at the time of occurrence.”
Campaign disclosure reports filed with the state show Brown gave Beale’s aldermanic fund $1,250 in January 2007 as he was seeking a third term in the City Council.
In summer 2009, Brown was forced to take 20 days of unpaid leave after CPS officials discovered she had rented out Brooks school for at least two after-hours dance parties without permission, documents obtained by the Tribune at the time showed.
One of the parties, called Juke Fest after a popular Chicago style of dance, cost the school district $4,300 to repair a wheelchair ramp damaged as police dispersed the crowd.
At the time, Brown told the Tribune she wasn’t alerted to the violations until more than a year later and characterized one of the parties as a fundraiser for the school’s dance squad.
Brown also had clashed with the local school council.
Tribune reporters Rick Pearson and Annie Sweeney contributed.