Washoe school board buys superintendent's contract

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Washoe County school board voted Tuesday to buy out the contract of School Superintendent Pedro Martinez for $800,000 to end months of legal and political wrangling sparked by his initial, illegal firing two months ago.

Tensions stemmed from the board's decision to fire Martinez on July 22 after questioning him about his status as a certified public accountant.

Martinez later returned to the job. The Nevada attorney general subsequently determined state open meetings laws were violated during his firing and Martinez filed a lawsuit against the Washoe School District and its board of trustees.

Among other things, the former deputy superintendent of Clark County schools in Las Vegas who earlier served as an assistant superintendent in Chicago demanded he be reimbursed for $80,000 in attorney fees.

Earlier this month, Martinez had rejected the board's offer of $25,000 to settle his breach-of-contract suit. The case then moved to mediation, where KRNV-TV first reported on Monday Washoe District Judge David Hardy had recommended the district buy out the contract.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that under the agreement, the school board would pay Martinez the $80,000 in legal feels along with the 15 months of salary and benefits he'd be entitled to if he worked until Dec. 22. In exchange, Martinez would drop his lawsuits against the school board and district.

Hardy had recommended that if the buyout package was approved, that Martinez's last day on the job could come by early November and no later than Dec. 22.

"The present circumstances make it impossible for the board and Mr. Martinez to move forward in a spirit of mutual cooperation," the judge said in the written recommendation obtained by KRNV. "Both parties therefore agree that it is the best interests of everyone, including students, parents, and school district employees..."

The attorney general fined each of six trustees $250 after finding they had violated a half dozen provisions of the state's open meeting laws. A seventh, Estela Gutierrez, was not present at the meetings.

Former school board member Leslie Mix was among those who criticized board members at Tuesday's meeting before they voted in favor of the buyout. She said they wasted taxpayers' money that should have been spent on students' education.

"Eight hundred thousand dollars because you guys couldn't follow the laws," Mix said. "You paid a very, very small fine for what you have done."

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