RUPERT — A former Minidoka County School District bus driver has filed a civil suit claiming the district violated Idaho law that protects public workers from retaliation when they blow the whistle on a co-worker wasting public funds.
Ramona Coffman filed the civil suit in July alleging a former bus shop foreman and mechanic, Ryan Edwards, who she turned into the district for storing personal items at the bus garage and using district employees and tools to fix personal vehicles, retaliated against her by firing her after he became her supervisor.
Coffman will ask a jury to award her $25,000 in damages. In Coffman’s complaint she said she had worked for the district as a bus driver since 2001 and in 2015, 2016 and May 2017 received good performance evaluations.
Coffman said she had taken her complaint against Edwards to the district superintendent, and afterwards, the personal items disappeared from the bus yard and she observed no other misuse of public property by Edwards. But, she noted a “remarkable” change in his behavior towards her.
Coffman said her requests for bus repairs were pushed aside and repair requests that came in after hers were performed first.
She said a bus brake repair job was “pushed back so long” that concerned parents began calling the district about the noises made by her bus.
Coffman claims the superintendent again intervened and the brakes were repaired.
The complaint says Coffman believes no disciplinary action was taken against Edwards for his misuse of public property or for ignoring her requests for bus repairs.
In Feb. 2018 Edwards was hired as transportation supervisor for the district and became Coffman’s boss.
On Feb. 22, 2018 he terminated Coffman.
“The termination letter cited two reasons and both were pretexual,” court records said.
Coffman said in the complaint that she asked the district for due process in the matter and the school district stood by Edwards’ decision.
The complaint said Edwards willfully violated the law by creating a hostile work environment for her and wrongfully terminated her in retaliation for her participation in a protected activity.
In an answer to the complaint filed by the school district, the district said Coffman became a regular district employee in 1999 rather than 2001 as Coffman stated.
The district admits the superintendent was contacted about the issue and that there was personal property stored at the bus site, but denies the allegations regarding the brake issue.
The bus’s brakes were repeated checked by mechanics, the district’s answer reads.
The district said Coffman would have no knowledge of any disciplinary action taken against Edwards because those matters are kept confidential and that there is written and video evidence regarding Coffman’s termination.
Coffman was violating basic regulations, falsifying records and allowing students to stand near her while driving, the district said.
A 3-day jury trial is set for Jan. 22, 2020 in Minidoka County District Court.