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WCSD Superintendent won't accept 25K settlement from trustees


Washoe County School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez will not accept the $25,000 offered by the board of trustees to settle a lawsuit regarding the board's breach of contract for improperly firing Martinez back in July before quickly reinstating him. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss spoke to Martinez's attorney Bill Peterson to learn why the superintendent is turning down the board's offer.

Peterson says that Martinez's employment contract with the district specifies that when that document is breached, Martinez is entitled to having his "reasonable" legal fees covered. An actual amount for those fees is not given within the contract, leaving the word "reasonable" up for discussion and, at this point, judicial direction.

"It says you're entitled to recover your reasonable attorney's fees," he explains, "and so, there can be a debate. Reasonable people can disagree as to what reasonable attorneys' fees are."

The board's proposed settlement of $25,000 would not cover even half of the legal fees Martinez has accrued. The dispute goes to mediation next week where Judge David Hardy will make a recommendation as to what amount is reasonable in this situation. According to Peterson, several factors are usually considered:

"For example, they might tell an attorney: 'I think you spent too much time on it; I think you employed too many lawyers on it; your hourly rate is too high; or some of the work you did was not necessary."

Peterson says he and his client are not afraid to get Judge Hardy's recommendation and that they will accept whatever amount Hardy deems fair.

Just last week, the board settled with the Nevada Attorney General. Under that agreement, six of the trustees will each pay $1,500 for multiple violations of the Nevada Open Meeting law.

A call to Kent Robison, the attorney for the trustees, was not returned in time for this story. When the board of trustees voted to offer Martinez $25,000 at its August 26th meeting, the agenda described the propsed settlement as an effort to amicably resolve the pending litigation by paying for Martinez's damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and other costs he's incurred while also protecting the district from its own escalating legal fees. 

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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