Judge to Church: Reinstate Principal

By Stephanie Saul
Newsday [Queens NY]
April 9, 2003

A Queens judge Wednesday ordered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to reinstate the parochial-school principal placed on leave last year after she reported her pastor's misdeeds.

The ruling -- which includes back pay -- ends the banishment of St. Elizabeth School principal Barbara Samide from her Ozone Park school last September.

It also ends a financial squeeze on Samide, who said the diocese prevented her from collecting unemployment by claiming she was still employed, yet it refused to pay her $50,000 annual salary.

"Pay her. Pay her all the back money," State Supreme Court Justice Duane Alphonse Hart demanded during a Jamaica hearing, ignoring the protests of diocesan lawyer Richard Cea, who argued that Hart was exceeding his jurisdiction.

"Appeal me," Hart responded, adding, "I don't mind being reversed."

Hart also ordered the diocese to put Samide back to work either at St. Elizabeth, where she still holds the title of principal, or another location.

"I am sure that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, of which I am a proud member, can find Mrs. Samide a place to work," Hart said.

It was the latest development in a $5-million suit that Manhattan attorney Mike Dowd filed on behalf of Samide last summer against the diocese and former pastor of the parish, the Rev. John Thompson.

Samide claims that Thompson sexually and physically abused and harassed her and the diocese did nothing to end the abuse when she complained. Thompson and the diocese have denied the allegations.

Last year, Thompson pleaded guilty to embezzling $95,940 in parish funds. Samide had reported him to the diocese and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

"The way I'm reading the facts ... after she turned Father Thompson in to either the Diocese of Brooklyn or the district attorney, her services were no longer needed by the diocese," Hart said, characterizing Samide as a whistleblower.

Yet, Cea argued that the treatment of Samide was consistent with terms of her employment contract, because she requested a transfer due to anxiety she experienced at St. Elizabeth School.

Instead of transferring her, the diocese placed her on unpaid leave, a move Cea said was consistent with her contract.

Samide was paid accumulated sick leave through December, when the checks stopped.

Reacting to Hart's order, Samide said, "I feel that the judge has really made the right decision."

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