Judge Denies Norgaard Request

An attorney for school board member Chris Norgaard said he plans to amend a lawsuit against school district officials after a federal judge this week denied his request for a temporary restraining order that would have permitted Norgaard to resume participation in the evaluation of Superintendent Alex Cherniss.
In a seven-page ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin declared that Norgaard could not support his claim that he was subjected to irreparable harm by being barred from the evaluation, nor could he demonstrate that the school board’s decision to bar him came suddenly and without reasonable expectation. Olguin also noted that Norgaard had in fact contributed some assessment of Cherniss prior to the board’s decision to exclude him.
“We will not appeal this ruling,” said Guy Glazier, Norgaard’s attorney, in an email. “This was a limited ruling affecting only the superintendent evaluation process. As the court mentioned, Mr. Norgaard did get to participate in that process through the submission of written comments, and the evaluation was basically complete by the time we were able to bring our application. However, as a result of today’s ruling, we will be streamlining our claims and filing an amended complaint early next week.”
Norgaard’s four peers on the school board have proceeded with Cherniss’ evaluation without him, as they presumably will with their subcommittee to handle Norgaard’s lawsuit against them.
Cherniss, Assistant Superintendent Linda de la Torre and San Marino Unified School District Board of Education members C. Joseph Chang, Nam Jack, Lisa Link and Shelley Ryan are all defendants in Norgaard’s lawsuit and are represented by Los Angeles-based O’Melveny and Myers.
“Our clients are very pleased with the court’s careful, thorough ruling and they remain focused on their core mission: serving the children of the school district,” O’Melveny attorney Matt Kline wrote in an email. “Given the court’s order, it is our hope that Mr. Norgaard will stop pursuing this costly, misguided case.”
Norgaard’s lawsuit is in response to the district’s sexual harassment investigation against him, which Cherniss and de la Torre launched in January; Norgaard alleges defamation and the infliction of emotional distress. Norgaard is also claiming deprivation of civil rights over the board’s decision to exclude him from evaluating Cherniss after Norgaard threatened the superintendent with a lawsuit in April.
The investigation was prompted by claims by several female SMUSD employees that Norgaard had either repeatedly contacted them in inappropriate ways outside of work hours or had kissed them on the lips during school functions.
Norgaard has consistently denied the claims and also has said that the allegations were fabricated by Cherniss and de la Torre.
A third-party investigation commissioned by the district found that none of the women felt Norgaard was sexually motivated in his alleged actions, but documents show at least one of the women disagreed with those results and is mulling her own lawsuit.
A simultaneous investigation by the San Marino Police Department was closed after the case’s primary witness declined to pursue charges against Norgaard.
The district currently is in the midst of a second investigation against Norgaard, spurred by claims by some of the women that Norgaard had contacted them to intimidate them.
A statement filed by Cherniss in response to Norgaard’s restraining order request included emails and letters that appear to have prompted the investigations.
Olguin, who sits in California’s Central District, did not address these documents in his restraining order ruling. He also has not yet set a date regarding Norgaard’s lawsuit.

Leave a Reply