Appeal in school defamation case rejected | NevadaAppeal.com

Appeal in school defamation case rejected

The Nevada Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal by two former Churchill County School District administrators who claimed they were defamed during a school board meeting.

Gary Imelli and Donald Lindeman were the subject of an investigation ordered by the school board. Attorney Donald Lattin found they and at least one other administrator had been using comp-time for their vacations, and then cashing in their vacation time for pay.

In that October 2002 meeting, Lattin and board members Debbie Smith and Paul Hinz discussed the practice, referring to it as illegal and unlawful. The discussion included comments by Lattin and the two board members that Imelli and Lindeman, as administrators, had to be aware of the rules that state administrators and other public executives are not allowed comp-time unless specifically permitted in their contracts, or specifically granted by the governing board which oversees them.

The district court granted the school board summary judgment in the case saying because Imelli and Lindeman are limited public figures, they must prove actual malice to support a defamation case. The Supreme Court panel of Justices Michael Douglas, Nancy Becker and Ron Parraguirre agreed, and ruled the two had no evidence of actual malice.

“The district court determined that no facts in the record could permit a reasonable jury to find that any respondents acted with actual malice when they made the allegedly defamatory statement,” the court wrote. “We agree.”

The high court said the only reasonable argument Imelli and Lindeman made was that it was a longtime school district policy to permit administrators to take compensatory time. But the justices ruled there is no evidence in the record Lattin or the school board members were aware of or approved the use of comp-time by the two and that the majority of the board was unaware of the practice until this issue came up.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.