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Washoe School Board Will Buy Out Pedro Martinez

The Washoe County School Board voted Tuesday to buyout Superintendent Pedro Martinez in exchange for him leaving.

After more than an hour of public outrage, the school board voted to end the long debacle with the superintendent that began this summer when the board illegally fired him.

The agreement was hashed out in a long mediation overseen by a district judge and received final approval in a 5-2 vote at the board's public meeting.

But Martinez says this wasn't the way he thought it would end.

"We went in asking for an apology. Frankly, I wanted to stay"

Under the settlement, Martinez receives 15 months of salary and benefits, which along with his legal fees, total more half a million dollars.

Going into the mediation, Martinez says his lawyers thought there was almost no chance they'd settle this with him actually leaving. They were almost certain they could resolve the outstanding issues, like attorneys' fees, and move forward with Martinez as superintendent.  

While he respects the board's decision, Martinez says the settlement makes it clear: this wasn't his fault.

"I did nothing wrong. There's no issues with my CPA certification or my credentials. I have done nothing to create any kind of cause. I feel bad that the community had to go through this. I feel bad that this took two months.

The settlement forbids Martinez and the board members from discrediting or disparaging one another, so, as a result, the underlying issues that made it untenable for either party to come to an agreement are still unclear.

In fact, School Board President Barbara Clark echoes what Martinez is saying: that she was prepared to resolve the dispute and continue working together.

"We went in there (mediation) thinking we were going to talk about attorneys' fees and this is what came out of it."

Clark won't elaborate on why the mediation ended with a buyout, but says it wasn't just about an apology. She says, ultimately, the judge felt that this was the best possible outcome for both sides. The settlement states that the two parties wouldn't be able to work together in a "spirit of mutual cooperation" given what's happened.

Speaking before the vote, the lawyer for the school district, Kent Robison, said neither side was coerced into this agreement and, in his opinion, settling in this manner is much better than a protracted lawsuit.

"And the costs and the fees (of a lawsuit) will be extensive, and no matter what happens, as a result of that lawsuit, I assure you there would be no winners. There would only be casualties."

But, to many citizens, this costly settlement and the loss of Superintendent Martinez are the worst possible outcomes. Some asked the board to find a middle ground. Others, like Fred Boyd, urged them to simply step down.

"You've mishandled this action from hour one. If we are to start over, that means with a new board. I want you to know that the battle is not over."

There have been rumors of an effort to recall some board members, but nothing official has been submitted. President Barbara Clark is the only incumbent up for re-election this November. Another seat will be open, since Trustee Estella Gutierrez is not running for re-election.

Earlier this month, all the trustees, except for Gutierrez, paid more than $1,000 each in fines to the attorney general for violating the Nevada Open Meeting Law.

Martinez could stay on until mid-December. Board members say they've haven't yet begun to think about how they'll find a replacement.
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