Serving the High Plains

Status hearing held in former coach's suit

PORTALES — More than 80 miles away and nearly two years later, a fight continues for the job of a former teacher and basketball coach.

A status hearing was held Wednesday at the Roosevelt County Courthouse on a civil case Rhyan Daugherty wants to pursue against Logan Schools Superintendent Dennis Roch and Jimmy and Dallas Valentine.

Daugherty attorney Warren Frost claims his client was fired in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act after performing his legal duty to report an allegation of misconduct, and that the Valentines conspired with Jay Cammack of Logan to strongarm Roch into firing Daugherty. The suit seeks reinstatement to Daugherty’s old position and twice the back pay owed, in accordance with WPA requirements, plus unspecified amounts for relief of damage and suffering.

The case is being heard in the Portales court because 10th Judicial District Court Judge Albert Mitchell has recused himself.

Attorneys for Cammack, Roch and the Valentines argued Wednesday that Frost has not presented adequate proof to justify a jury trial, which is tentatively on District Judge Donna Mowrer’s docket for June 18.

The 2017 civil complaint alleges:

• Daugherty, employed as a teacher and girls basketball coach at Logan, heard rumors during the 2015-16 school year that Dallas Valentine had inappropriate contact with a student. He at first dismissed them as rumors, but contacted the New Mexico State Police that spring when the rumors persisted. The NMSP investigated, but found no substantiation and closed the case. Later that summer, the Valentines acquired a copy of the police report, which identified Daugherty as the source of the allegation.

• The Valentines spent the ensuing months harassing Daugherty, undermining him with other Logan school employees and making demands that Roch terminate Daugherty’s employment.

• The school did not take any action regarding the harassment, and Daugherty was informed April 19, 2017, that he would not be rehired for the upcoming school year.

An amended complaint filed in February added Cammack to the suit, alleging he aided the Valentines in their efforts to oust Daugherty with sway he held over the community.

Frost referenced a school board meeting in January in which Roch’s contract as superintendent was possibly up for renewal. At that meeting, Frost alleged, Jimmy Valentine called Daugherty a liar and Dallas Valentine said she wanted Daugherty and possibly Roch fired.

“If you go to a school board meeting, call a teacher a liar and say, ‘I want him fired,’ that’s intent to cause harm,” Frost said. “And if you’re successful and he is fired, you’ve caused harm.”

Frost also alleged that Cammack and the Valentines addressed the board during an executive session at that meeting. Roch’s contract wasn’t renewed after that meeting, Frost said, and wasn’t renewed until after Daugherty was told he wouldn’t be re-hired.

“I have Roch feeling like because he was under so much pressure from these three people that it came down to his job or Mr. Daugherty’s job,” Frost said. “He saw the deference the school board had ... to Mr. Cammack. That’s when he realized Mr. Daugherty had to go.”

Frost had previously argued Roch was part of multiple counts in the suit, but told Mowrer information presented during the legal process has convinced him Roch should only be considered in the retaliatory discharge count.

Michelle Blake, attorney for Jimmy Valentine, said Frost had inference but no evidence.

“It’s inference baked on top of inference on top of inference,” Blake said. “I guarantee you these four people are dumbfounded to find out they were in a conspiracy to get Mr. Daugherty fired.”

Doug Perrin, Cammack’s attorney, said Frost had a great performance if there was a jury present, but he failed to provide adequate evidence to justify a jury trail.

“In conspiracies, it’s not written out, but there has to be some support,” Perrin said. “It can’t be based on guesswork. There is not one hint of evidence Jimmy Valentine conspired to have Mr. Daugherty fired.”

Perrin added that removing Roch from any allegations of harassment or conspiracy only made the case weaker because, “the guy they need to get rid of Mr. Daugherty isn’t part of the group.”

April White, Roch’s attorney, said Dallas Valentine was upset at Daugherty and Roch, but much of her anger was around a perception a similar allegation against a male teacher wasn’t treated as seriously. She added that Roch’s contract was typically voted on around June, so he wouldn’t have felt like his job was on the line if the board didn’t renew his contract in January or subsequent months.

White noted Daugherty was a second-year teacher and didn’t have a right to employment in the district. Frost countered that no matter what year Daugherty was in, he did have Whistleblower Protection rights.

Mowrer said she would consider various motions in the case and issue a decision letter within a month. She set the next hearing for 10 a.m. June 4. The hearing was originally set for June 3, but Jimmy Daugherty requested a different date due to a conflict with a family event.

Roch and Daugherty were not present at the hearing. Cammack and the Valentines were present, and did not address the court outside of Jimmy Valentine’s schedule request.

Mowrer reminded the parties she has a heavy criminal docket, and criminal cases take priority over civil cases. Frost wanted a trial in June, because it would allow Daugherty to immediately return to work in Logan should he win the lawsuit.