Education

Former Twin Rivers administrator ends lawsuit with $300,000 settlement

The Twin Rivers Unified School District, its former law firm and former superintendent have agreed to pay $300,000 to a onetime deputy superintendent who alleged district officials conspired against her before firing her in 2012.

Siegrid “Ziggy” Robeson said district leaders began to discredit her after she questioned the amount of money Twin Rivers was spending on legal disputes with former Grant Joint Union High School District officials. Twin Rivers was formed in 2008 in a merger of four school districts that included Grant.

As an administrator, Robeson alleged that the law firm Timothy M. Cary & Associates was “profiting immensely” from the Grant litigation, which dealt with everything from how Grant officials handled documents and property in the transition to whether administrators were owed buyouts.

Between 2007 and 2012, Twin Rivers paid more than $10 million in legal fees to the law firm, though not all payments were for Grant litigation, according to an audit commissioned by the school district.

Robeson was fired in July 2012, about three months after being put on paid administrative leave while the district investigated misconduct in the Twin Rivers Police Department, which she supervised. The Police Department faced allegations that included police brutality, false arrest and towing an excessive number of cars for profit.

In a claim that originally sought $3.9 million, she alleged that district officials tried to make her a scapegoat for the department’s troubles and fabricated a driving-under-the-influence citation to discredit her. There is no record of a criminal case against Robeson in Sacramento County.

She said she suffered civil rights violations, wrongful termination, breach of contract, retaliation, fraud, emotional distress, loss of reputation and conspiracy.

Under the settlement signed July 21, Twin Rivers will retroactively “reinstate” Robeson as a teacher for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, paying her $153,485. The district will pay her an additional $56,515 in compensation. The retroactive pay ensures that her teacher retirement is fully vested, according to her attorney, Mark Wasser.

As an employee with a teaching credential, Robeson was entitled to a teaching position after she was removed from her administrative role, said Deputy Superintendent Bill McGuire. “We did what we needed to do to rectify the situation procedurally, as we may not have done in 2012,” he said.

Former Twin Rivers Unified Superintendent Frank Porter will pay Robeson $15,000. Attorneys Timothy Cary, Paul Hamill and William Trinkle, along with former FBI agent James Maddock, jointly agreed to pay Robeson an additional $75,000. The attorneys worked for Timothy M. Cary & Associates, and Maddock was hired by the firm to review the Twin Rivers Police Department.

In return, Robeson agreed to drop her lawsuit and not pursue further litigation against the defendants. It is a “great settlement” for Robeson, Wasser said.

Robeson had been with Twin Rivers Unified since it formed in 2008 and worked at the Rio Linda district before the merger. She was paid $174,000 a year as Twin Rivers deputy superintendent. In 2012, the board opted to buy out the final 18 months of her contract for $260,000. The suit says no reason was given for her termination.

Robeson was hired as principal of Colony Oak Elementary School in Ripon in 2014 and was recently named superintendent of the Ripon Unified School District.

The Robeson agreement was the latest in a series of legal settlements that Twin Rivers Unified has reached with former administrators in recent years, including a $400,000 payment to former facilities director Jeff Doyle in 2013; a $150,000 settlement in 2014 with Sherilene Chycoski, the former director of visual and performing arts; and a $36,000 settlement with former police Chief Christopher Breck in 2012.

The district has other pending cases, according to McGuire. Some predate the merger and others emerged during the formation of Twin Rivers, he said.

“Any district this size and with the turmoil we have gone through, there are going to be issues and litigation and our job is to help the district move forward in the most positive fashion,” he said. “Where we made mistakes we need to rectify them and where we didn’t we need to hold firm in the interest of the children.”

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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