from a district court order vacating an arbitration award.
Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County; Scott N.
County School District Legal Department and Christopher B.
Reich, Neil A. Rombardo, and Sara K. Almo, Reno, for
Kintz Guinasso, LLC, and Devon T. Reese and Jason D.
Guinasso, Reno, for Respondents.
HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.
appeal, we are asked to determine whether the district court
erred in granting a motion to vacate an arbitration award
affirming a school district's termination of a principal.
We answer in the affirmative and conclude that (1) the
arbitrator did not exceed his authority because his decision
did not conflict with the language of the parties'
collective bargaining agreement, (2) the arbitrator did not
manifestly ignore the law because he acknowledged NRS
391.3116 and applied the statute in reaching his decision,
and (3) the arbitration award was not arbitrary or capricious
because it was supported by substantial evidence.
Accordingly, we reverse the district court's order
granting respondents' motion to vacate the arbitration
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2008 until 2013, respondent Kara White was employed as the
principal of Lemmon Valley Elementary School (Lemmon Valley).
White was a member of respondent Washoe School
Principals' Association (WSPA), and the WSPA and
appellant Washoe County School District (District) were
parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governing
the District's employment terms.
White's first year as the principal of Lemmon Valley, she
received training on the use of school funds, including
student activity funds (SAFs). The training emphasized that
SAFs could not be used to purchase gift cards for employees.
In 2009, Lemmon Valley was randomly selected for auditing,
and the audit report revealed that the school had issued gift
cards to teachers and staff employees that could expose the
District to IRS penalties and fines, and that White had
signed off on checks that she had issued to herself. The
District sent White a report of the audit and discussed it
with her, and White was told to reference the Student
Activity Funds Policies and Procedures Manual (Manual)
regarding any uncertainties with the use of school funds. The
Manual specifically prohibits using SAFs to purchase meals
and gifts for administrators or staff. White responded in
writing that she would no longer permit or engage in the
improper use of school funds. In 2011, training materials for
SAFs were emailed to White, which again referenced the
February 2013, a counselor at Lemmon Valley notified the
District that White had gifted her a $149 necklace purchased
with school funds. The District began an investigation into
the matter, which included a special audit of expenditures
from Lemmon Valley's spring and fall SAFs from 2011 to
2013. At that time, Lemmon Valley participated in biannual
fundraisers during the fall and spring, and the proceeds were
deposited as SAFs. The fall fundraiser SAF was designated for
purchasing playground equipment, and the spring fundraiser
SAF was designated for funding student and classroom-based
activities and supplies.
special audit for 2011-2012 revealed that around $5, 960 of
the expenditures from the fall and spring SAFs were
inappropriate. The special audit for 2012-2013 revealed
that around $3, 287 of the fall fundraiser SAF expenditures
were inappropriate. In March 2013, White received a letter
notifying her of pending investigations and a mandatory
meeting with the District regarding her misuse of SAFs. In
particular, the letter stated that White's actions
resulted in a violation of NRS 391.312 for;
(c) Unprofessional conduct;. . . (i) Inadequate performance;
. . . (k) Failure to comply with such reasonable requirements
as a board may prescribe; (I) Failure to show normal
improvement and evidence of professional training and growth;
. . . (p) Dishonesty.
April 2013, White received a notice of recommended dismissal
following the District's investigation of her misuse of
SAFs. During the investigation, the District found
White's responses to the audit during her meeting with
the District to be "less than credible" when she
claimed to be unaware of the Manual, despite her prior misuse
of SAFs during the 2009 audit, which was discussed with her
personally. As such, the District concluded that White's
responses were "dishonest, " and resulted in a
violation of NRS 391.312 for "[d]ishonesty." The
following month, the District's Deputy Superintendent
Traci Davis upheld the recommendation for termination, and
White appealed the termination decision to arbitration.
arbitration hearing was conducted in February 2014 during the
course of four days. When the original arbitrator became sick
post-hearing, the parties selected Alexander Cohn to render a
decision in her place. Arbitrator Cohn received post-hearing
briefs and the arbitration record for review. Thereafter,
Arbitrator Cohn issued a 61-page opinion and award (Award)
affirming the District's decision to terminate White
because she "was discharged for just cause" for her
dishonesty in the matter. In March 2015, White filed a motion
to vacate the Award in the district court. The district court
granted White's motion, holding that (1) Arbitrator Cohn
exceeded his authority, (2) Arbitrator Cohn manifestly
disregarded NRS 391.3116, and (3) the Award was arbitrary and
capricious. The District now appeals the district court's