Opinions 

4/29/2003

Suit prompts changes to contracts

By Kendra E. Fish
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — School district officials say they intend to revamp employment contract policies in light of statements that the St. Vrain Valley School District’s former top business official intends to sue for being fired last week.

“It was a poorly written contract,” said Board of Education President Kathy Hall on Monday.

In fact, the district’s standard employment contract for administrators has remained the same for about 25 years. The main problem: Each contract lacked a clause allowing employees to be fired for good reason.

On Thursday, former Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Ken Kirkland, who has been given much of the blame for the district’s financial crisis, announced that he plans to sue the district for breach of contract. The announcement came a day after the school board fired Kirkland, who had been on unpaid administrative leave since a then-$13.8 million deficit was uncovered in November.

Although Kirkland would not provide details of his intended suit, he did not deny that part of his complaint would be based on the lack of a good-reason clause in his one-page contract.

“You’ll have to wait until the suit is filed,” he said.

Kirkland said he is still not sure when he might file suit. His lawyer, Robert Cohn of the Denver firm, Stettner Miller & Cohn, refused to take calls from “members of the press” Monday, according to his secretary.

“We’ve been concerned with (the contract not containing the clause) as well,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Tom Garcia. “We’ve suggested a change.”

The district has had a new stock contract reviewed by its lawyer and the board will see a draft of it on May 14.

“We have tightened up the requirement of when the district could terminate a person who signs a contract,” Garcia said, adding that such wording is especially important for nonlicensed administrators such as Kirkland.

“Most of our administrators are licensed by the state,” he said.

Licensed employees sign the same contract but are also held accountable for their work through the state.

Typically, administrators in the fields of finance, food or operations and maintenance do not have to go through the licensure program, Garcia said.

The one-page contracts for such employees includes provisions that the employee agrees to terms including:

nProviding the superintendent with up-to-date college and employment credentials.

nProviding complete and up-to-date transcripts of college credits.

nFiling an oath of allegiance, as required by law.

nFurnishing a health certificate that includes results from a tuberculosis test.

nAbiding by the rules and regulations of the board of education as set forth in policies and procedures manuals.

According to Garcia, the district has never had a lawsuit filed against it based on the contract, and subsequently never realized the potential for a problem prior to its financial crisis and Kirkland’s termination.

“It is a year-to-year contract,” Hall said. “It stayed written the same way because every year you had the opportunity to review employment.”

Mark Pillmore, the district’s recently-hired chief financial officer, will be the first nonlicensed administrator to sign the new contract.

Pillmore has been working part time since April 21 and is expected to start full time in mid-May.

Kendra Fish can be reached at 303-776-2244 Ext. 211, or by e-mail at kfish@times-call.com.

 

 
Return to the "St. Vrain Budget Shortfall" Archive Home Page