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Judge dismisses Rude lawsuit

Former school board member Curt Rude’s controversial lawsuit against the Austin school district and a former superintendent was dismissed Monday.

District court judge Fred Wellman denied Rude’s motion to amend the defamation suit — which would have stricken all allegations against the district — and ordered that the case be dropped due to a lack of subject matter and insufficiency of service.

Neither current superintendent David Krenz nor the school board were available for comment Monday afternoon as they had not yet consulted with their attorney about the court’s findings.

Rude brought the six-count suit in November, alleging that statements made by former superintendent Candace Raskin — dating back to November of 2007 — were defamatory and damaging. He later sought to amend the complaint to remove counts which specifically targeted the district for vicarious liability and the negligent retention and supervision of Raskin.

School district special counsel Margaret Skelton argued in March that the suit should be dismissed because it was served to the district’s director of human resources, rather than to a school board member, as required by law.

A memorandum attached to the court order explains that because the suit was in fact not served legally, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the case. Legal complaints against school districts must be served to a board member or governing body; Rude’s suit was served to the district’s human resources office and Raskin herself.

Skelton had requested that the suit be dismissed with prejudice, barring Rude from filing another case on the same claim. This was denied as the court believed it did not have the jurisdiction to consider that issue, due to the invalid service of the suit, according to the memorandum.

Austin Public Schools also asked for an award of attorney’s fees, which the court did not deem appropriate.

Curt Rude did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

The former Austin police captain is no longer a member of the board. He was voted off in March, when members decided unanimously — with director Don Fox absent— that remaining on the board while bringing the suit posed a conflict of interest.

The board formed a committee last month, after Rude’s period of a right to appeal expired, to design a process by which to fill his seat.

The committee — comprised of chairperson Dick Lees, vice chair Jeff Kritzer, director Don Fox, and overseen by Krenz — completed Monday a plan to fill the vacancy; it will need to be approved by the board before being put into action.

“The process is being guided by the Minnesota School Boards Association,” Krenz said.

By state statute, the board may appoint a replacement to serve the duration of Rude’s term. They cannot hold a special election.

If approved, the committee will accept applications from the public through June 25, at which point they would select finalists to interview with current board members and the superintendent.

The next meeting of the Austin school board is Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.