Hilary Hays, Assistant Principal at Park City High School from 1998 to 2006 and Principal from 2006 to 2012, filed a lawsuit against the Park City School District ("PCSD") Tuesday in 3rd District Court in Silver Summit for breach of contract. Also named as defendants are former PCSD Superintendent Ray Timothy and current PCSD Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley.
The suit revolves around Hays' termination from her position as PCHS Principal in May 2012. She is now seeking "an amount not less than $910,000" and "her prompt reinstatement as Principal of Park City High School with former pay and benefits; in the alternative, to an equivalent position with another school within the District, with equivalent pay and benefits."
Hays claims in the lawsuit that the reasons for her dismissal were not made clear and that her due process rights in challenging her dismissal were violated.
"Plaintiff was told only that she was terminated due to 'conduct considered to be unprofessional and not characteristic of or befitting a Park City School District employee,'" the complaint reads. "No substantiation, documentation or itemization of deficient performance was offered to Plaintiff, either within or incident to the letter of termination, other than the statement that Defendant Timothy had received 'a number of comments still expressing a lack of trust in you as a leader.'"
Hays attorney, Vincent Rampton of the Salt Lake City firm Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough PC, told The Park Record how he feels the termination procedures were unfair to Hays.
"The problem with the administrative hearing, of course, is number one it's before the school board, which is never an altogether objective situation for a terminated administrator to be in," he said. "And then also, she was confronted with claims and information that she had never seen before. Which of course is kind of a fundamental due process violation."
Though Rampton was not representing Hays at that time, he said his understanding was that the post-termination appeals hearing Hays received lasted only one day.
In May 2012, around the time of Hays' dismissal, it was reported that Hays contract was not being renewed and that she might even soon return to a position with the PCSD. In reality, her employment was terminated by then-Superintendent Ray Timothy "for cause."
"The cause for termination is conduct considered to be unprofessional and not characteristic of or befitting a Park City School District employee," Timothy wrote in the May 8, 2012, termination letter, which was submitted to the court as an exhibit to the complaint initiating the lawsuit.
Nine months before her dismissal, in September 2011, Hays was placed on "Probationary Status" by Timothy via another letter that is an exhibit to the complaint. That letter notes concerns about Hays performance going back to 2005.
"This year , however, an extremely large number of staff members and parents have come forward concerned about your behaviors and the way you treat others," Timothy wrote. The letter then lists 11 of those concerns, including "Inability to refrain from extreme emotional reactions," "Demonstrations of extreme anger during meetings," Creating an environment of fear where staff members are afraid to speak out or express their own opinion for fear of losing their jobs," and "Abusive."
Timothy concluded his letter on an optimistic note, however, stating: "I have great confidence in your leadership abilities as evidenced by the many great things that are happening at Park City High School. It is my desire that you overcome these areas of weakness that have become obstacles to your success."
One of the rationales for the damages Hays is seeking through the lawsuit is that she "has been damaged in her future employment prospects, in an amount not less than $700,000."
"She certainly has been out looking at other work situations," Rampton said. "Of course, when any educational administrator is terminated from a position of this sort that's a tremendous black mark on her record."
"The problem is she walks away with an involuntary termination of her employment," Rampton said.
When reached for comment Thursday, Ray Timothy had not yet been made aware of the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it. Dr. Ember Conley wrote via email that the Park City School District will be legally represented by the Utah Division of Risk Management.