Judge rules to dismiss Ross’ lawsuit

Dr. Carolyn Ross

Dr. Carolyn Ross

Unofficially, the Churchill County School District scored a big win.

After two years of litigation, Senior Judge Robert Estes ruled recently in the Tenth Judicial District Court to dismiss former Superintendent Dr. Carolyn Ross’ lawsuit against the district.

According to the court minutes provided by Court Administrator Sue Sevon, the court granted a “stipulated oral motion to dismiss the claim regarding a violation of the open meeting law.”

In addition, the ruling also included there was no indication any district policies were violated; no language in the contract the board is required to hire or fire employee recommended by the superintendent; and insufficient evidence the board did not follow policy or to support the defamation claim.

Ross stepped down as CCSD superintendent when she submitted her letter of resignation to the district in July 2012. Ross gave no official reason for the resignation, although the CCSD Board of Trustees did not accept the resignation.

But the case is not officially over yet. The court has not received the order from CCSD attorney Brent Kolvet of Reno for Estes to sign. Once Estes signs the order, Ross has 30 days to appeal the ruling, according to Sevon.

Kolvet declined comment and referred his thoughts on the case to his blog post.

According to the court minutes, “It is possible the plaintiff will appeal the ruling or another resolution of the action may occur based on any on-going negotiations that may still be happening between the parties based on the Court’s ruling at the hearing.”

Kolvet posted to his blog on his firm’s (Thorndal, Armstrong, Delk, Balkenbush and Eisinger) website on Sept. 9 “a Nevada district court dismissed a contentious lawsuit brought against a local school district by its former superintendent.

“After conducting thorough discovery, Mr. Kolvet and Mr. (Kevin) Pick filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking the dismissal of the entire lawsuit. Ultimately, the court agreed with the school district, concluding the employment contract had not been breached and that there was no evidence indicating any violation of Nevada’s open meeting laws. Accordingly, the court dismissed the case.”

The lawsuit

Ross’ tenure came to a bitter end in 2012. She left her position with CCSD, hired Elko attorney Julie Cavanaugh-Bill of Elko and filed a lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged, “The board collectively, and specific board members individually, have repeatedly exceeded and abused their prescribed powers. This excess and abuse has directly interfered with and impeded Carolyn Ross’ ability to perform her duties under the contract, rendering further performance either impracticable or impossible.”

In addition, the lawsuit also alleged slander by Trustee Nona McFarlane and requested her suspension from “further acting as a member of the board and from making any further defamatory statements about plaintiff.”

Cavanaugh-Bill confirmed to the LVN in 2012 her client was seeking compensation for “mental injury, emotional distress, financial injury, consequential damages and damage to her reputation.” The amount estimated to exceed $10,000, according to proof, at trial.

Cavanaugh-Bill was in correspondence via email with the LVN, but due to her travel schedule, she could not comment.

In an offer of compromise dated on June 21, 2012, Ross requested a buy-out of her contract for a prelitigation settlement of $172,841 — which includes $109,200 for her annual base pay, $50,391 for unused sick leave (110.750 days at a rate of $455 per day) and $13,250 for unused vacation time.

Ross had received a contract extension through the 2012-13 school year.

Among her accomplishments, Ross claimed in the lawsuit she has “fully performed and exceeded her duties under the contract.” According to the lawsuit, Ross “successfully led a campaign to generate additional revenues for CCSD such as the eMINTS Smart Board program, the successful passage of a bond measure and acquisition of more than a $1 million Department of Defense grant to incorporate state-of-the-art STEM/Smart Labs in elementary schools.” It also stated she has “spearheaded the Parent Engagement Program which has fostered, improved and strengthened relationships between the school district and parents.”

Ross, who earned a master’s degree in education administration and a doctorate in education leadership at the University of La Verne in Southern California, was the first woman to hold the position of superintendent of schools for Churchill County.

She had served as school superintendent since July 1, 2005, and worked for the district two years before that as director of Instructional Services. She originally applied for an opening as superintendent in 2003, but the appointment went to Donn Livoni.


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