Former Park City High School Principal Hilary Hays has not seen much progress in her lawsuit against the Park City School District (PCSD) for breach of contract stemming from her firing in 2012.
Wednesday, the court ruled that the defense, consisting of the PCSD and former and current superintendents Ray Timothy and Dr. Ember Conley, respectively, has been improperly delaying the case's progression. Hays was thus awarded sanctions of nearly $6,000 in costs and attorney's fees in connection with the delays.
"By refusing to provide any discovery or participate in scheduling the Defendants exhibited bad faith," wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse in an order signed Wednesday.
The defendants are being represented by attorneys Rebecca Parr and Daniel Widdison of the office of the Utah Attorney General.
Hays has been critical of the defense's tactics going back to March, when, she argued, via her attorney, Vincent Rampton of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough, PC, that the school district has been "clearly using the legal system to make the resolution of [her] claims more costly and difficult."
Wednesday's sanctions revolved around the defendants' refusal to engage in scheduling or discovery matters, justified, it argued, because it had a motion to dismiss that was pending a decision. But Hays argued that since that motion, if successfully ruled upon, would not result in the dismissal of the entire case, the defendants were in the wrong.
Widdison told The Park Record on Friday that this particular type of sanctioning is a first, in his experience, and that the defendants may appeal the decision.
"It's very unusual," he said. "In fact, this is the first time this has ever happened to anyone in our office."
Rampton told The Park Record on Thursday that "it's not uncommon for a party who has moved for dismissal to want to put the brakes on the entire case," but that it's unusual for a defendant to be deemed as exhibiting "bad faith."
Further, he said it was "extremely unusual" for the attorney general's office to be cited in such manner.
Rampton has more than three decades of civil litigation experience, according to his firm's website. In that time, has he ever been involved in a case when the attorney general's office was dubbed as exhibiting "bad faith"?
"Oh boy. 'Ever' is a big word when you're an old guy, but I'm not recalling another instance, no," he said.
"It's not something I've ever encountered before," Widdison said.
The sanctions beg the question of who's making the decisions for the defense -- the school district and its former and current superintendents or their counsel, the office of the Utah Attorney General.
"I'm not going to talk about who made those decisions. We believe that would be protected by the attorney-client privilege," Widdison said.
"Every lawyer has the absolute obligation to communicate in counsel with his client, so I'm sure it was a product of a joint decision," Rampton noted.
Hays seeks "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," according to the complaint.
Rampton said Hays is continuing to seek a new job.
"She's looking for work. Doing her best to mitigate her damages," he said.