On Wednesday a few residents addressed the Unit 5 School Board for how they handled the resignation of James Harden, the school districts Human Resource and Student Services, who the district investigated after harassment allegations.
The district agreed to pay Harden around $27,000 for what would have been the remainder of his contract as well as almost $7,000 for his unused vacation days.
The resignation came after the district investigated Harden for harassment claims made by colleagues. The claims include Harden making racially charged comments as well as making sexual gestures.
The allegations go back to the fall of 2017 and one resident called out the board for not tackling the situation sooner.
“Unit 5 was aware of his behavior but did not fire him for two years. How can you ask anyone not to harass anyone, not to bully anyone if you, all of you, cannot stand up to a person who behaves this way,” Normal resident Jodi Slothower commented.
While an acquaintance of Harden, Melina White, called the accusations a lie and an assassination of character brought on by people at the district.
“Now it’s in question after he made some decisions at his office that ruffled some feathers and not before but after all of a sudden attacks of retaliation and accusations are hurled at him. They just didn’t want his resignation they wanted his career ruined,” White said.
A reprimand from the district to Harde claims he referred to female colleagues by his wife’s name when they got “fussy.” It also claims Harden made joking comments about how he would like to have sex with his wife on the conference table.
In his resignation, Harden agreed to not comment publically about Unit 5 and the board members agreed to do the same. Superintendent Mark Daniel is not named in the agreement and refused to answer questions Wednesday as the district is calling the situation a “personnel matter.”