WCSD wins in court as judge throws out parts of Traci Davis lawsuit

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Traci Davis speaks to the media after being fired by the WCSD trustees. Reno Gazette Journal

This breaking news story was updated 

The Washoe County School District was successful in defending itself against parts of a lawsuit filed by ousted Superintendent Traci Davis. 

Both sides were in a virtual court hearing on Tuesday that bumped right up against the school board’s decision to name interim Superintendent Kristen McNeill to its top post. 

Davis, filed a civil lawsuit in August, after being fired when the school board accused her of being to blame for allowing the leaking of confidential district information regarding top administrators over the special education department.

Judge Barry Breslow ruled in favor of the district on several counts including that Davis could not sue for more than what she agreed to in her employment contract.

Because Davis was fired for cause she was only paid up until her last day and was given accrued vacation time. 

She signed a contract that said if she was fired without cause she was to receive a year’s salary plus 90 days’ notice but Davis argued in her suit she should receive punitive damages because the district violated her rights.

Breslow didn’t agree. 

Breslow said the district had not violated the due process or constitutional rights of Davis.

He also threw out allegations that her contract left open any opportunity to get more money in a suit. 

“The court finds persuasive the arguments of the defense that the contract negotiated at arms-length with competent council, no evidence of disparate bargaining power or any other attempt to coerce or manipulate the negotiations existed,” Breslow said. 

The district had also asked the court to dismiss parts of the suit including that it had violated open meeting law, had violated state and federal laws.

Reno Attorney William Peterson, who is representing Davis, has alleged that the district kept information on wrongdoings committed by Davis secret and by doing so violated open meeting law. 

Peterson said he hadn’t even received the full list of allegations. He said the board illegally kept those documents from the public and from Davis

Breslow said Peterson has 20 days to clarify the position on how the district violated open meeting law by withholding certain information.  

But the case is still going to trial with a court date set for Oct. 19. 

“The court’s ruling does not impact in any way shape or form the ultimate determination on whether Miss Davis was fired for cause, which is what the school district alleges, or if she was fired without cause which is what Miss Davis alleges,” said Breslow.

The district did not immediately return a request for comment on Breslow’s ruling.

Peterson said he was pleased that the judge confirmed the case is still going to trial.

He also said he plans to amend his motion to clarify how the district violated open meeting law. He said he is eager to show how the school board kept certain documents hidden from the public.

Peterson has argued that information should have been public and should have been provided to Davis so she could properly defend herself.  

Original post:The civil lawsuit filed by Washoe County School District ousted superintendent Traci Davis is back in court Tuesday afternoon.  

The school district is arguing against motions Davis filed after she was fired by the school board in July 1.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial on Oct. 19, 2020.

The case was back in a virtual courtroom on Zoom on the same day the district is set to name Interim Superintendent Kristen McNeill to the district’s top post at a meeting Tuesday night. McNeill was second in command under Davis.

Davis was fired in July after the school board alleged she was responsible for allowing internal confidential information to get into the wrong hands. 

Attorney Rob Dotson will be arguing on behalf of the district to dismiss several parts of the suit, including that the district conspired against her, broke open meeting law,  and that her state and federal rights were violated. The district is also arguing against part of the suit that seeks punitive damages. 

The hearing on Tuesday will not address Davis’ allegation that the district was in breach of her superintendent contract. That is part of the trial set for October

Bill Peterson, the attorney representing Davis, has previously argued that his client is due more than what is laid out in her contract. 

The district has said Davis she is entitled to 90-days’ notice plus a year of salary if she is let go for no cause. 

Because she was fired on July 1 for cause in a 6-to-1 vote by the board, she walked away with pay up until that day. She also was entitled to unused vacation leave, sick leave and unreimbursed expenses.  

According to her contract, cause is defined as a conviction, plea of guilty to any felony or gross misdemeanor, an act of dishonestly or unethical conduct.

Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal

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