Principal may have to pay $40,000 in court costs

MINDEN - Scarselli Elementary School Co-Principal Kirk Cunningham may owe the Douglas County School District more than $37,000 for filing a "meritless" lawsuit.

"It is the court's belief that plaintiff's claims were meritless and without foundation, and thus this is an exceptional case warranting attorneys' fees to the prevailing defendants," says a document signed Wednesday by a United States magistrate judge.

According to the school district's attorney Bob Cox, the document was a recommendation by the magistrate to the judge, who will make the decision if Cunningham will have to pay the district's attorney fees for a lawsuit he filed.

"It may be submitted to a district judge for an ultimate decision. At this point, we are going to sit back and give the court an opportunity to review it," Cox said.

"And certainly, Mr. Cunningham has an opportunity to ask the judge to review it and to appeal the decision."

Cunningham said the fact he may have to pay all that money hasn't sunk in yet, but he's determined to continue to fight.

"I have to figure out what I'm going to do next. I'm not sure how I'm going to tackle this bull, but I definitely have to grab it by both horns," Cunningham said. "I'm not going to go down to the district office and write a check."

Cunningham said he doesn't regret what he did, just the way he went about it.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said she does not want to comment until a final decision is made.

The case, filed in March 1999, asked that the court find that Cunningham's due process rights were denied and the school district caused emotional distress by transferring him from principal of Jacks Valley Elementary School to principal on special assignment at Gardnerville Elementary School. The suit also claimed the move was a demotion and interfered with his contract.

At the time, Cunningham, had 22 years with the district and 15 years at Jacks.

On Feb. 3, 2000, the court ruled that the district "had a legitimate reason to transfer plaintiff." The judge also found the district did not cause emotional distress nor was his transfer a demotion. Cunningham was transferred because he used 70 days of accrued sick leave during the 1997-98 school year.

The school district filed a motion asking for attorney's fees of $46,996. On Wednesday, the magistrate recommended part of the fee request was reasonable and ordered Cunningham pay the school district $37,596.


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