The Nevada Supreme Court this week reversed a district court decision to reinstate a Washoe County elementary school principal.
Kara White was fired after auditors found she had illegally spent Student Activity Funds on gift cards and on checks she issued to herself and other staff.
A special audit revealed $5,960 worth of inappropriate expenditures in 2011-2012 and another $3,287 of spending in the following year. Most of the expenditures were for food and beverages — including alcohol — and gifts for teachers and staff.
Under state law, Student Activity Funds can only be spent on student and classroom-based activities.
An arbitrator affirmed White should be terminated and the district voted to terminate her “for just cause.”
But a district judge granted her motion to vacate the ruling, agreeing the arbitrator had exceeded his authority and the district had failed to impose progressive discipline in her case.
“Under White’s rationale, any employee’s first instance of misconduct, no matter how egregious, could not result in termination,” the high court wrote. The decision says that means an employee can be terminated for a first offense and, therefore, the arbitrator didn’t exceed his authority.
The court also rejected White’s argument the evidence doesn’t support the arbitrator’s finding of dishonesty.
“We conclude that the arbitrator’s primary justification for affirming White’s discharge was her dishonesty in regard to the misuse of (Student Activity Funds),” the opinion states.