Wolf Point Herald

Hamill’s Lawsuit Against School District Dismissed

After nearly three years of legal wrangling, a lawsuit brought by former school superintendent Henry Hamill against the Wolf Point School District is resolved with the former superintendent receiving some compensation. The lawsuit brought by Hamill was dismissed with prejudice in 15th District Court Monday, March 10. The dismissal with prejudice is a final judgment and prevents Hamill from filing another case on the same claim. Hamill’s suit included allegations that he was hired but not licensed as a superintendent when the district hired him in 2010, that he was not entered into a board approved internship program as a superintendent, that the district failed to provide a supervising superintendent to provide advice, that the school district failed to inform him at the time he was hired that the WPSD was facing a severe financial deficit and that he would be required to develop and implement a plan to address the shortfall that would include staff reductions, wage reductions or a tax increase. Wolf Point School trustees voted unanimously following a closed executive session during a special meeting May 20, 2011, to indefinitely suspend Hamill with pay, pending an investigation. The board at that time included then and current board chairman Martin DeWitt and current trustee Tracy Juve Miranda. That board also included Sonny Douglas and Scott Nefzger. Then and current board member Janice Wemmer-Kegley did not attend the meeting. The motion the board approved that suspended Hamill also called for the board to retain the investigative services of the Montana School Board Association to investigate allegations related to the then superintendent. Issues had previously been raised of Hamill’s college performance. The school board voted 2-2 April 7, 2011 to retain the MSBA to investigate Hamill. At the time, Hamill had recently completed a course at Rocky Mountain College related to his superintendent’s certification. Hamill had served as superintendent for about 10 months. During that time, the district bought out the contracts of 13 teachers, implemented a hiring freeze and transitioned to a four-day school week. Allegations included in Hamill’s lawsuit include that the MSBA investigation was flawed. Hamill, 66, who now lives in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, spoke briefly with The Herald-News, but declined to answer questions. Instead, he referred this newspaper to his attorney, Joe Engel, of Great Falls. Engel confirmed that Hamill has received $175,000 from the school district since 2011. “The case was settled on a disputed basis without an admission of liability by anyone. We had pretty well established that the school board was negligent,” Engel said. “They failed to hire a supervising superintendent. Henry wasn’t licensed when he was hired,” he said. Engel called the Wolf Point board a contentious school board. “It was an unfortunate circumstance. If Henry had a supervising superintendent, he’d still be the superintendent today. It was very damaging to his reputation,” Engle said. “The main thing that the taxpayers should know is that it is an insurance settlement and it is not coming out of the general fund,” DeWitt said. He explained that the district had to pay $10,000 and the remainder was paid by the insurance carrier. “The decision to settle was the insurance company, not the district,” DeWitt said.