Onnen v. Sioux Falls Independent School District #49-5, No. 25683, 2011 SD 45 (Aug. 3, 2011) The Supreme Court of South Dakota held that the posting of a birthday greeting on a trial judge's Facebook page by a witness was not a prohibited ex parte communication warranting recusal of the judge because the post did not concern a pending or impending proceeding.
Termination of Plaintiff's EmploymentAs explained by the court, plaintiff Matt Onnen was a registrar employed by Southeast Technical Institute, a public educational institution in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As registrar, Onnen was responsible for ensuring that students met all graduation requirements before they received a degree. However, school district officials learned that several students had received degrees from the Institute even though they had not satisfied all graduation requirements. The district investigated the matter and determined that 28 students had received degrees despite having failed to meet the requirements. Moreover, between 40 and 50 students who should have received degrees or diplomas had not received them. In addition, more than 250 students had not been verified for graduation—a task which Onnen should have completed months earlier. Based upon these facts, the school district terminated Onnen's employment, and the Sioux Falls School Board affirmed that decision.
Earlier ProceedingsOnnen appealed the decision of the school district and the board to the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of Minnehaha County. He argued that he had been wrongfully terminated and that the procedure followed by the school district in terminating his employment was illegal. Circuit Judge William J. Srstka held a three-day trial and affirmed the decision, finding that the school district's action was neither arbitrary nor capricious, nor an abuse of discretion. Onnen moved for a new trial and for Judge Srstka’s recusal from hearing the motion for a new trial. Presiding Judge Kathleen Caldwell heard the recusal motion and found that it had no merit. Subsequently, Judge Srstka heard the motion for a new trial and denied the motion. Onnen then appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
No Error in Trial Court's Finding That Termination for Cause Was Supported by EvidenceOn appeal, the state supreme court held that the circuit court did not err in upholding the school district's termination of Onnen's employment. The court observed that Onnen's employment contract permitted the district to terminate his employment for cause and required him "to devote his utmost skill to the performance of the duties to be assigned by the District . . . and in all respects to faithfully comply with, obey and enforce all of the policies, rules and regulations of the District." Onnen at
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)