Opinions 

7/22/2003

Kirkland amends lawsuit

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Ken Kirkland’s attorney filed an amended complaint against the St. Vrain Valley School District and its board members Friday.

Kirkland, the district’s former assistant superintendent of auxiliary services, was fired April 23 for his hand in the district’s financial woes.

Kirkland’s initial complaint, filed June 23 in U.S. District Court, claims that the district and members of the Board of Education humiliated him and caused mental anguish following what he calls his illegal dismissal.

Kirkland was placed on unpaid leave Nov. 18, 2002, after the school district accused him of causing the district’s $13.8 million deficit. He was fired April 23, days after he said the district signed a resignation agreement guaranteeing him full pay and benefits until the end of the fiscal year.

His lawyer, Roger Castle, rephrased parts of the original complaint that claimed the district didn’t give Kirkland the opportunity for a hearing after he was terminated. According to the school district’s attorneys, Kirkland waived his right to a hearing as part of his negotiations with the district in April.

A letter from the school district’s attorney, Dan Bernard, to Kirkland’s attorney, dated April 15, stated that “Dr. Kirkland will not request a hearing by the Board of Education regarding the termination.”

The letter added that because he waived his right to a hearing, the district agreed to “not to assert as a defense ... that Dr. Kirkland failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because he did not request a hearing regarding his termination before the Board of Education.”

The amendments to the lawsuit are insubstantial, said Patrick Mooney, one of the attorneys representing St. Vrain’s insurance company on the case.

Mooney said the amendments “don’t change any parties or claims; they change the wording of about a half-dozen paragraphs of the complaint. In my opinion, there’s not any way that those amendments change the lawsuit.”

Mooney said he submitted the amendments in response to a a letter he sent last week to Castle saying he and his client “should not be suing the district for claims that Ken Kirkland did not get a hearing when he agreed in writing he would not have a hearing.”

“They’re trying to adjust their claims to work around that agreement they made in April,” he said.

Kirkland’s attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mooney said he plans to file a response to the amended lawsuit by July 28.

The law firm had planned to file its response to the original claim yesterday, but then received the amended complaint over the weekend.

Mooney told the Daily Times-Call that included with his response to the Kirkland suit would be a request to dismiss the seventh claim, which accuses school board Vice President Rick Samson of defamation.

The suit said that “in November and December 2002, defendant Samson made various public statements that Dr. Kirkland had falsified documents and lied to the Board of Education. The statements were made in public meetings of the Board of Education and to members of the media.”

Mooney said governmental immunity limits the right of people to file tort claims against public entities and their board members.

“There are only six claims you can bring under (the immunity) statute, and this ain’t one of them,” Mooney said.

District Attorney Mary Keenan recently returned the results of a seven-month probe into the actions of the school district, saying her office would not pursue criminal charges.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail pavengladych@times-call.com.

 

 
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