School board could oust Rude Monday

Published 7:33 am Friday, March 5, 2010

Curt Rude’s final school board meeting could be Monday.

The Austin Public School Board will cast its final votes next week on a resolution to oust the controversial member from its ranks.

The board first moved in February to begin the unprecedented process to de-seat Rude, alleging among other things, that his civil defamation lawsuit against the district creates a conflict of interest.

Under state law, four members of a school board can vote to remove any member for “proper cause,” but this is rare. Rude would be the first school board member in Minnesota history to be dismissed by fellow members.

An independent arbitrator will present a recommendation to the board prior to its vote.

Superintendent David Krenz has said the board tried to avoid the forced removal by sending a letter to Rude and his attorney about the conflict of interest, asking that he drop his lawsuit or resign. No action was taken, and the process of removing Rude began more than a month later.

The district has argued that a conflict of interest, resulting from Rude’s defamation lawsuit against former superintendent Candace Raskin and the school district, constitutes “proper cause.”Rude’s suit, which seeks a minimum of $50,000 in damages, alleges the district is responsible for Raskin’s actions as she was their employee during the time period in question.

Two days after the vote, on Wednesday the district will seek dismissal of Rude’s lawsuit before a judge.

School district special counsel Margaret Skelton said during the hearing, “Mr. Rude has manufactured a lawsuit and is essentially suing himself… He is seeking money damages based on decisions he was involved in.”

Skelton noted that it is the school board which supervises the office of the superintendent.

In an affidavit filed Monday, Rude claims Raskin sought to ruin his reputation and that her actions caused him emotional and mental distress.

The affidavit notes that publicized differences between the two heightened after the school board election night of 2007. On this November evening, a spat between Raskin and Rude resulted in a written complaint to Rude’s then supervisor police chief Paul Philipp.

In the complaint, Raskin alleged that Rude was drunk that evening on school grounds, that he had physically and verbally threatened her and abused his position as a police officer.

An investigation ensued and though Raskin’s complaints were unfounded, Rude received a written reprimand from the chief for behavior unbecoming of a police officer.

Rude claims he suffered panic attacks following these incidents; that Raskin also made media calls to say he engaged in gender discrimination; that she publicly urged him to resign and threatened him with criminal or civil action.

Rude concluded in the affidavit, “I believe that Dr. Raskin’s conduct toward me was for the sole purpose of having me removed, or causing me to resign, from my position with the school board.”

If Rude is removed from the school board Monday, he will be replaced by a board appointee to serve for the duration of his term, as mandated by state law.

The school board meets Monday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.