Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The firing of Las Vegas Robertson’s volleyball coach last fall is costing Las Vegas City Schools six figures and counting.
Stacy Fulgenzi was fired as coach of the Cardinals in October less than two weeks before the end of the season, apparently for failing to follow proper procedures for depositing money from a fundraiser to benefit a breast cancer victim.
According to documents obtained through a state Inspection of Public Records Act request, the law firm representing Las Vegas City Schools billed the district more than $10o,ooo through March 31. Presumably, the total cost of defending the firing will be higher, as it doesn’t account for additional work the Cuddy & McCarthy law firm has performed since then. A hearing before an independent arbitrator was held Thursday, though no decision was rendered.
Superintendent L. Larryssa Archuleta declined to discuss the matter, replying to the Journal with an email that read, “At this time there is not a hundred thousand dollars worth of legal fees expended by the district on any singular dismissal of an employee. Thank you.”
Asked for clarification, Archuleta replied, “I’ve answered your question to the best of my ability at this time.”
Archuleta formally placed Fulgenzi on administrative leave in October. Her decision to fire Fulgenzi was upheld by the school board in February on a 4-1 vote.
Fulgenzi said in a phone interview this week that she was upset by the firing, which cost her both her coaching and her teaching job at her alma mater. Now, she’s even more perturbed after seeing what the school district is spending on her ouster.
“I’m completely disappointed and disgusted that that’s where our taxpayer money is going,” she said.
According to billing statements, Cuddy & McCarthy billed the school district at rates ranging from $65 per hour for work performed by a legal assistant to $190 per hour if work was handled by one of the law firm’s partners.
“I think it’s alarming that the attorneys have to deal with every single IPRA request,” Fulgenzi said, adding that most school districts and government agencies have a designated public records custodian to handle such requests. “I went to IPRA trainings and you don’t need a law degree to do that. A lot of this is basic public information and I don’t see where an attorney that charges $190 per hour has to go through everything.”
The state Attorney General’s Office has already weighed in on the school district’s handling of IPRA requests made by Fulgenzi and others.
“We are most concerned as to the District’s compliance with its statutory responsibilities and we strongly recommend that the District take prompt remedial action,” Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp wrote last January. “In view of numerous other complaints our Office has received from other members of the public alleging that the District has violated IPRA, we are alarmed as to the District’s apparent disregard for its statutory obligations.”
Fulgenzi said she still hasn’t received many of the documents she requested dating back to last year, nor was she ever told the specific reason for why she was fired.
According to interviews posted on Facebook earlier this year, Archuleta said that, by law, Fulgenzi was supposed to have deposited the money into a bank account within 24 hours of the event.
Fulgenzi, who was in her fourth season as coach, said that, in past years, proceeds from the annual breast cancer fundraiser had been handed over directly to the recipients, who were selected by team members.
Fulgenzi’s ex-brother-in-law, Juan Carlos Fulgenzi, serves as athletic director at Robertson. Asked if she felt that family matters might have played a role in her dismissal, Stacy Fulgenzi said, “That’s what’s up for speculation, I guess. Let’s just say I was completely blindsided.”
She acknowledged that she had recently gone through a “long and painful divorce” from Warren Fulgenzi, tennis coach at the school. The couple’s marriage lasted 19 years and produced four children, including one that played on the volleyball team.
While the coach was sidelined for the remainder of last season, the volleyball team went on to win its first state championship.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story had an incorrect total for the actual amount that Las Vegas City Schools was billed.