Trina Olsen, the Washoe County School District administrator who was ordered reinstated after an outside arbitrator determined WCSD illegally fired her, received this week a letter from the superintendent that formally acknowledges her reinstatement.
The letter, per Nevada law, was to be sent by the supertintendent within five days of the arbitrator’s decision after the arbitrator found in Olsen’s favor in December of 2018.
NRS 391.824 indicates that if arbitration is sought by an employee, a school district may not fire them prior to arbitration. WCSD, however, fired Olsen months before arbitration, and after it placed Olsen on paid leave for more than a year.
The law states that, based on the arbitrator’s findings, what should have occurred is that the superintendent shall recommend dismissal or provide to the employee notice that no further action will be taken against her.
That never happened. Instead, WCSD’s attorney, Chris Reich, sent a letter to Olsen, weeks after the arbitrator’s decision was rendered, saying she could come back to work.
Olsen is now suing the school district to recover the more than $50,000 she said she’s spent on legal fees trying to protect her job. She was a 20-plus-year employee with the district and had no disciplinary actions during her career.
Olsen’s attorney, Luke Busby, went to court against WCSD to try to keep the district from taking any adverse actions against Olsen during litigation.
A hearing set for today, which included a number of witnesses scheduled to testify, was canceled after Interim Superintendent Kristen McNeill delivered the letter to Olsen.
Busby said, however, that McNeill’s letter is still legally deficient.
“Although the letter does not strictly comply with the provisions of [state law], the letter contains sufficient assurance that no adverse employment action will be taken against… Olsen based upon the facts and circumstances addressed in the [arbitrator’s decision],” he wrote in a legal filing.
WCSD officials have denied wrongdoing in their handling of Olsen’s case and have sided with their administrators and legal counsel.
McNeill wrote this week in the letter that Olsen’s request for a preliminary injunction is “wholly unfounded.”
McNeill ruled against Olsen, after she was placed on leave, on a number of disciplinary actions that the arbitrator later said were unfounded or excessive.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.