NEWS

District will pay more than $32,000 in buyout agreement with principal accused of rape

Dave Haney

Illini Bluffs Community Unit School District 327 will pay more than $32,000 in an agreement that essentially purchases the resignation of its former elementary school principal.

In return, the school district is indemnified of any future lawsuits from John Walker, who officially resigned last week amid criminal charges of raping a 20-year-old woman.

Walker, an administrator at Illini Bluffs since 2002, could also receive health insurance provided at the district’s dime until June 30, 2008, unless he becomes eligible for other health insurance, either through other employment or other means, according to a severance agreement obtained by the Journal Star Wednesday under an Illinois Freedom of Information request filed last week.

The $32,207 represents the salary Walker would have earned from August through December, which the former principal will receive next month. The paycheck he received Wednesday, income taxes and related witholdings, including any contributions made to the state teachers retirement system, will be deducted from that amount.

"We believe (the severance agreement) was in the best interests of all parties concerned," Superintendent Randy Stueve said Wednesday.

Stueve estimates total cost to the school district will be lower, closer to $20,000, based on the dollar amount the district will pay for an interim-principal for the remainder of this year and a permanent replacement who would take over in January (and who would likely be hired in at a lower salary than what Walker earned).

The agreement is the result of a special meeting held last week behind closed doors, after which the district’s School Board accepted Walker’s resignation and what amounted to a tentative agreement. The agreement became final on Wednesday, although Walker does have at least 21 days to reconsider.

Walker, arrested at his home July 15, was indicted about two weeks later by a Peoria County grand jury on two counts of criminal sexual assault. Court documents offer few details but state that he used "force or the threat of force" and knew his victim "was unable to give knowing consent."

The alleged victim was an acquaintance, and according to Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy, the two were at a house party in the Lake Camelot subdivision when the victim felt ill and went inside a bedroom. Witnesses at the party told police they saw Walker later follow the victim into the room.

Walker has maintained his innocence. His attorney, Kevin Sullivan, has said that Walker did not step down from his job right away because "he believes he has not violated any criminal laws and has been falsely accused." Walker’s decision to resign was to "spare the school district, the community and his family," Sullivan said last week.

Walker had been suspended with pay since a day after his arrest.

If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Walker’s arrest is the second this year involving a district staff member.

High school teacher and varsity boys basketball coach Ian M. McDonald, 31, resigned in March after his arrest on a sexual assault charge stemming from an alleged seven-month relationship with a student.

McDonald still is being held at Peoria County Jail on $100,000 bond. He is expected to appear in court on Friday.

Dave Haney can be reached at (309) 686-3181 or dhaney@pjstar.com.