Stillwater college district settles ex-finance director lawsuit

Stillwater college district settles ex-finance director lawsuit

The Stillwater Spot Faculty District has reached a $475,000 settlement with its previous director of finance and functions, Kristen Hoheisel, who sued the university district in 2020 and was later fired.

Kristen Hoheisel portrait
Kristen Hoheisel, previous director of finance and functions for Stillwater Location College District. (Courtesy of Kristen Hoheisel)

The settlement arrangement features a community statement of assistance for Hoheisel by the faculty board and blames “ongoing political turmoil” with the then-elected university board for her termination. It also incorporates a letter of suggestion prepared on her behalf.

“Ms. Hoheisel served at the enjoyment of the college board as an at-will employee, and her discharge was based mostly on her connection with the college board users at that time,” according to the statement study by board chairwoman Alison Sherman through a specific board assembly on Monday night time. “The existing university board thinks that Ms. Hoheisel was carrying out her occupation duties sufficiently in the midst of a difficult political atmosphere for staff and does not help the work actions taken by that board.”

The board’s general public statement of help, Hoheisel reported, was important to her determination to accept the settlement.

“I consider that the district with out lawfully admitting fault admitted that they were erroneous, and that was my situation from the commencing,” Hoheisel stated Tuesday. “That the way I was treated, by means of all the several mediums – social media, the news, the papers, the character assaults — the only way to remedy individuals untruths in my intellect was that assertion.

“To have acknowledgment – no matter if it be from the board or a jury – was my concentrate,” she explained. “I would have absent to the mat with this.”

Pursuing a closed session of the board on Monday evening, faculty district attorney Trevor Helmers mentioned the settlement was attained after both equally sides participated in obligatory mediation very last fall.

“While the district did nothing at all unlawful in this scenario and has really strong defenses to the statements and could transfer forward with looking for summary judgment, (the college district’s) insurance policies enterprise is recommending settlement centered on the phrases outlined in the settlement agreement and launch of promises that is currently being introduced to you for approval tonight,” Helmers instructed the board on Monday evening.

The district’s insurance plan supplier could settle the assert with no the faculty board’s authority, “but they are asking for you to approve and sign this arrangement,” Helmers claimed. “All of the cash in the settlement will be coming from your insurer, and the district will not have to fork out a dime toward the settlement outside of the retainer that you have by now paid. In addition, you get the profit of possessing this circumstance remaining absolutely and finally concluded and getting rid of the considerable strain on your administration and the neighborhood of owning this case move forward to motions and trial more than the coming months.”

Grievances, then lawsuit

Hoheisel sued the school district and then-university board Chairwoman Sarah Stivland in May perhaps 2020 for allegedly violating the state’s open-meeting regulations, the whistleblower statute and the knowledge practices act.

Sarah Stivland outdoor portrait
Sarah Stivland (Courtesy image)

In 2017, Hoheisel, who experienced worked for the district considering that 2015, filed a hostile-work-environment grievance alleging gender discrimination and harassment on the section of Stivland and another board member. Her complaint was investigated by an unbiased, third-bash investigator appointed by the university board who found her criticism had advantage, but “there was no motion taken by the school board to punish the wrongdoing discovered in the investigative report (and) the harassment continued,” the lawsuit mentioned.

In accordance to the lawsuit, Hoheisel filed one more complaint in February 2020 in which she documented discussions she experienced experienced with Superintendent Denise Pontrelli about her hostile perform environment and had asked that actions be taken to cease it. A lot less than a thirty day period later on, the school board voted to area Hoheisel on administrative depart.

“Stivland was mindful of and had observed Hoheisel’s … criticism ahead of the March 19, 2020 college board assembly,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges the school district and Stivland violated the state’s whistleblower statute when they “penalized, threatened and disciplined (her) mainly because she had, in very good faith, described violations or suspected violations of federal, condition, frequent regulation or regulations adopted pursuant to legislation to her employer.”

The school district and Stivland also violated the state’s knowledge procedures act by remaining “woefully careless, haphazard, and, at situations, fully intentional with figuring out Hoheisel as Worker A in the ongoing school board investigations,” the lawsuit states.

Related posts