Thomas Cardoza, the humanities professor who was demoted by Truckee Meadows Community College President Karin Hilgersom, “basically won” his lawsuit against the institution, according to his attorney Michael Langton.
Cardoza, a tenured professor, was removed from his position as humanities department chair, a three-year position he held starting in 2016. He remains an instructor.
Cardoza said he was retaliated against in part for support of tenure for an instructor TMCC administrators did not want to see with tenure. That instructor also filed suit against TMCC, after Hilgersom and her administration denied his tenure application despite having support of his colleagues. But his case lost in federal court because the judge ruled the suit was filed in the incorrect venue.
Cardoza said the bargaining agreement provisions were not followed when he was removed as chair. TMCC attorney John Albrecht alleged Cardoza violated the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, something Langton called “disingenuous and legally questionable.”
According to his lawsuit, Cardoza filed a grievance with TMCC’s human resource office protesting the actions of Hilgersom and then Dean Jill Channing, alleging Channing retaliated against him in violation of the collective bargaining agreement faculty have with TMCC.
Former Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly said he supported Hilgersom’s right to remove people from chair positions but questioned why administrators reprimanded Cardoza.
“Specifically, I am troubled that [Cardoza’s] removal was linked to [a] letter of reprimand without reference to any other facts demonstrating reasons for your removal,” Reilly wrote in 2017 letter. “Nonetheless, I strongly believe that deans and presidents should have discretion in the appointment and removal of department chairs and I believe your removal was generally consistent with the authority vested to the president.”
District Court Judge David Hardy disagreed.
“There is no evidence of record that Mr. Cardoza failed or refused to perform the normal and reasonable duties of department chair,” he wrote last week. “With the removal of the Letter of Reprimand [from Cardoza’s personnel file], there were no ‘formal causes for discipline specified in the NSHE Code’ that would support Mr. Cardoza’s removal as department chair.”
A final determination on the case has yet to be made. Langton said he is seeking Cardoza’s reinstatement as department chair and about $100,000 in back pay owed to Cardoza.
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. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.